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Winners and losers of the week at The Ringer


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Loser: Kyle Shanahan’s Refusal to Run

The Atlanta Falcons are the upset champions of 2019. They’re responsible for the single biggest upset of the season—a win as 13.5-point underdogs against the Saints—and they pulled off another double-digit upset Sunday, winning as 10-point underdogs against the 49ers. New Orleans and San Francisco have six combined losses. One came when the Niners beat the Saints last week; somehow two of the remaining five came against the 5-9 Falcons. They pulled off the win thanks to a little help from an old friend: 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator once upon a time. You may remember his last game—when the Falcons lost because they didn’t run the ball with a massive lead.

On Sunday, the 49ers led 19-17 with under two minutes to go when they faced a fourth-and-1 at the 25-yard line. If they picked up the first down, they would have won the game. And they almost certainly would have picked up the first down. On 24 plays of third- and fourth-and-1 entering Sunday, the 49ers picked up 17 first downs and scored three touchdowns. That’s an 83 percent success rate. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was 7-for-7 with seven first downs on run plays on third- or fourth-and-1. That’s a 100 percent success rate. Again: If the 49ers picked up the first down, they win the game.

Instead, San Francisco attempted a field goal. They made it! Hooray! And while that make extended their lead from two points to five points, it also gave the Falcons the ball back with a chance to score a game-winning touchdown. Sure enough, they did, winning on a last-second Julio Jones catch that barely crossed the goal line:


JULIO CROSSES THE PLANE. THE @AtlantaFalcons WIN! @juliojones_11 #InBrotherhood


6:37 PM - Dec 15, 2019

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This loss changes the season! Before Sunday, the Niners were the last two-loss team in the NFC and in the driver’s seat to get the top seed in the conference and home-field advantage until the Super Bowl. After last week’s win over the Saints, San Francisco had a 16 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, according to FiveThirtyEight. That’s down to 8 percent now.

Kicking the field goal was plainly the wrong call. Making it wasn’t a guarantee, and, as you can tell, didn’t seal the win. Every coach should be more confident in their offense’s ability to gain a single yard than in their defense’s ability to prevent a touchdown drive.

So now the Falcons have lost a game because Shanahan didn’t run late with the lead and won a game because Shanahan didn’t run late with the lead. All square, right?

Winner: Onside Kick God Younghoe Koo

On Thanksgiving, we wrote about Onside Kick God Younghoe Koo, who somehow pulled off back-to-back-to-back successful onside kicks, a stunning accomplishment in a league that had seen only two successful onside kicks all season before Thanksgiving. Koo’s legend grew when he recovered a fumble last week—he doesn’t even need to kick onside to get the ball!

Sunday, Koo hit ANOTHER successful onside kick, only for it to get called back due to an illegal formation. Normally, if a team does something cool and it gets called back to a penalty, I don’t get too worked up—sure, that holding call brought back a touchdown, but, uh, they wouldn’t have scored without committing the holding penalty! Violations generally put teams at advantages, which is why they’re illegal. However, Koo’s successful onside kick was actually called back because of a rules infraction that put the Falcons at an obvious disadvantages.

Justin Felder✔@Justin_FOX5

Well here's a new one! The #Falcons recover a surprise onside kick … but are penalized because they don't have 5 men on either side of the ball. Why'd that happen? Because they only have 10 men on the field.


5:09 PM - Dec 15, 2019

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See, there’s a rule that prevents teams from unbalanced formations on kickoffs. You can’t have more than six players on one side of the formation—it was put into place recently to prevent a team from sending 10 guys charging forward in close quarters on an onside kick. However, they wrote the rule backwards—it says that “at least five players from the kicking team must be on each side of the ball.” So when the Falcons accidentally took the field with 10 guys—and couldn’t put five guys on either side of the ball—they were technically committing a violation.

That’s so dumb! Obviously there’s a penalty if a team takes the field with 12 players, but in almost every scenario, there’s no penalty for taking the field with too few players—the other team takes care of it for you. (Like earlier this year, when Dalvin Cook busted out a 30-yard run against 10 Cowboys.) Unfortunately, this rule is written poorly, and it prevented the Falcons from making an incredible play despite having the wrong amount of players.

The NFL should change this rule immediately. I need to see Koo go out on the field with exactly one other teammate, just to see if he can still connect on an onside kick. I bet he can do it.

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1 hour ago, Jesus said:

So now the Falcons have lost a game because Shanahan didn’t run late with the lead and won a game because Shanahan didn’t run late with the lead. All square, right?

Lol, unless they gave the Falcons their SB51 rings for winning yesterday, I'd have to say no...all is NOT square..

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21 minutes ago, SkerFalcon8710 said:

Actually it was green bay

for the time being. 


Green Bay isnt a threat like you may think they are. They have a huge division game vs Minny this weekend


That and the fact that I truly do abhor the 49ers and their fans...quite possibly the top 3 worst travelling fans of all ( when relevant ) 

Edited by Glorioso
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