You don’t just shake off a game like Super Bowl LI if you’re the Atlanta Falcons. You don’t just look at that collapse, losing a game that you were leading, yes, 28-3 in the third quarter, and think, “oh well! We’ll get ’em next time!” If you’re the Atlanta Falcons, you’ve got two options: curl up in a fetal position, or embrace the suck.
The latter is the motto Falcons head coach Dan Quinn will preach for the rest of 2017. Falcons players arriving for rookie mini-camp and OTAs are getting wristbands with EMBRACE THE SUCK imprinted on them. Accept the pain. Steer into the skid. Or, as Quinn puts it: “Eat a crap sandwich with a smile.”
Colorful, right? But also accurate. In a wide-ranging interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jeff Schultz, Quinn faced down the agony of the Super Bowl. He noted that the key to returning won’t be an improved offensive plan — run the dang ball, guys — but on improving a defense that gave up 31 unanswered points.
Quinn, known for his defensive wizardry, took over defensive playcalling after the 12th game of the season, when the Kansas City Chiefs scored a touchdown on their first offensive series. He held it for the rest of the year, right on through the Super Bowl. Perhaps that’s why Quinn didn’t throw former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan under the bus, because Quinn knew he belonged there beside him.
“It wasn’t about one play,” he said. “Those (failures to stop New England) are the ones I evaluated over and over. When you go back and sit through it over and over, you know, I damn sure can’t get a do-over. But I can learn from it. I won’t apologize for how aggressive we play and our style and attitude of where we’re headed. But I have learned from that experience.”
Quinn added that the defense was also completely exhausted, having played 90-plus plays in the highest-pressure game of their lives. (It’s the same formula Clemson used to beat Alabama a few weeks earlier in the national championship.) But again: no excuses. The Falcons have a tough road ahead of them — every team does — but Quinn is determined not to let the past be prologue.
“It’s a victim’s mentality or a warrior mentality,” Quinn said. “It’s like, ‘I know this run is going to be long, and it’s going to be really hard. But here I go again.’”
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.