(Reuters) – The Atlanta Falcons are done licking their wounds following last season’s epic Super Bowl collapse, refusing to dwell on the past as they get set to open a new season that they refuse to call a redemption tour.
The Falcons blew a commanding 28-3 second-half lead and then lost in overtime to the New England Patriots in February’s Super Bowl, a record-setting collapse that will stick with the players for the rest of their lives.
But with the bulk of that talented, high-scoring team still together, the Falcons are not letting any outside noise clutter their mindset going into their season opener at Chicago on Sunday.
”Our mindset is really … it’s really locked,“ Falcons head coach Dan Quinn told ESPN. ”We for damn sure aren’t going to let people outside our walls tell us how we’re supposed to feel. You don’t play. People who write about us don’t play. We play, and this is our season. And we’re going to go for it like crazy in ‘17.
“But it doesn’t have shit to do with 2016. It’s not a redemption tour. It’s to see how good we can get.”
Reckless play-calling is what ultimately denied the Falcons from celebrating a Super Bowl, and members of the team all dealt with the heartache in their own way during the off season.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, the man mostly responsible for getting Atlanta to the NFL’s championship game and still in the prime of his career, watched the game multiple times.
Quinn spoke with other coaches who suffered similar heartbreak only to come back stronger and win it all the next season, including Steve Kerr of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and University of North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams.
“I wanted to do my own research and make sure that I was going to be responsible in every way to our team,” Quinn told USA Today. “I‘m not Steve or Coach Williams or any of those guys. I wanted it to be authentic to me. But I wanted to make sure I uncovered every rock to make sure that mentally, we were good to go.”
But history is not on the Falcons’ side as only twice before has the losing Super Bowl team won it all the next season, and even that has not happened since Miami did it in 1973.
Since Buffalo made four consecutive trips, culminating with the Super Bowl in 1994, no runner-up has gone back to the big game the following campaign while a number have failed to even make the playoffs the next season.
But the Falcons, who already boast explosive running back Devonta Freeman and standout receiver Julio Jones, have added a new offensive coordinator and bolstered their pass rush in the hopes of avoiding any possible Super Bowl hangover.
”If you do your job,“ Jones told ESPN, ”your brother is going to do his job, and throughout the line, people are going to be successful.
“If you throw the team under the bus,” Allen said, “you’re not going to be able to make the plays you need to make.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Gene Cherry