Two numbers—28 and 3—will follow the Atlanta Falcons the rest of their lives, defining them the same way 23 defines Michael Jordan, 44 defines Hank Aaron, and 3-1 defines Golden State (for the moment). The Falcons lost last year’s Super Bowl in a horrific and soul-crushing manner, and the only way to even hope to recover from that is to channel the spirit of the one who defeated you. And Falcons QB Matt Ryan is doing exactly that.
“We’re on to 2017,” Ryan told the Falcons’ website, channeling Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s infamous “On to Cincinnati” brushoff. “You know, you learn from it, like we did. You deal with it, like we did. And then you move forward and you start preparing to try and be the best football team that this group can be. And that’s where we’re at.”
It’s the right attitude, the only attitude you can have short of just running and putting the covers over your head and weeping. It’s of a piece with head coach Dan Quinn’s “Embrace the Suck” ethos; it happened, it won’t change, move on and get past it.
The Falcons will have some challenges, starting with the fact that they’ve got a new offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, in camp to replace the departed Kyle Shanahan. But as Ryan tells it, Sarkisian will be adjusting to a system the players know, rather than the other way around: “The system is pretty much the same as it was before, which is good,” he said. “You know we’ve got a lot of guys on our team who are back, who have a lot of experience in this system, who understand the rules, the scheme, the terminology really, really well.”
We’ll see soon enough just how well Ryan, Sarkisian, and the rest of the Falcons adjust to life under pressure.
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.