Wednesday June 20th, 2018 1:08AM
12:57AM ( 11 minutes ago ) News Alert

Falcons hoping 2017 can erase sting of Super Bowl collapse

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Atlanta Falcons have made every effort to cover the scars from their unprecedented Super Bowl collapse.

That hasn't been easy. There have been social media jabs from NFC South rivals about the 28-3 blown second-half lead in the 34-28 overtime loss to the Patriots that denied the Falcons their first championship.

Coach Dan Quinn issued a forward-focus mandate in training camp, and his players fell in line by resisting invitations to review the Super Bowl. Observers will be watching closely for any signs of a hangover.

The Falcons have ample reasons to remain upbeat about their immediate future. A young defense should continue to improve after more offseason additions. Most playmakers, including 2016 MVP Matt Ryan, return from an offense that led the league in scoring last season.

Running back Devonta Freeman should be ready after recovering from a preseason concussion. Wide receiver Julio Jones looked explosive in practice in his return from offseason foot surgery. Most importantly, there is quality depth with running back Tevin Coleman and receivers Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel, while tight end Austin Hooper could be ready for a bigger role.

The Falcons finished 0-4 in the preseason, but the always upbeat Quinn said, "We're excited. We're disappointed with the results at the end of some of the preseason games, but we're very excited for our team."

The blown lead in the Super Bowl brought monumental pain to Falcons fans. There is no room for sympathy in football rivalries.

On March 28 — 3-28, get it? — the Carolina Panthers celebrated "Falcons Day" by posting a Twitter photo of their players wearing jersey numbers 3 (Derek Anderson) and 28 (Jonathan Stewart) standing together. The Panthers later deleted the tweet.

Similarly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers deleted from their Twitter account a similar jab at the Falcons using their 28-3 jerseys. Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter, a former Falcons offensive coordinator, apologized to Falcons fans.

Finally, a New Orleans T-shirt company launched a fundraising campaign to mount a 28-3 billboard near the Falcons' new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

From the Falcons' camp, however, there have been few references to the crushing loss.

Ryan said the loss left him in his "dark place" for a short time. Center Alex Mack said "it took a while" for him to recover. But Mack laughed at a follow-up question asking if he had trouble sleeping after the game.

Here are some other things to watch this season:

RAISE THE ROOF: The Falcons broke in the new $1.5 billion stadium with two preseason games, and the facility also has staged two college games — all with the retractable roof closed . There are ongoing issues with the complicated roof, with its eight "petals" designed to open in a manner somewhat like a camera lens. The roof has been opened, but it is not yet ready for automated operation and will remain closed indefinitely for events.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Dome, which stands dark and empty beside the new facility, is scheduled to be demolished in November.

COLLINS' SUSPENSION: Cornerback Jalen Collins apparently will have an opportunity to return after a 10-game suspension . The suspension follows Collins' second violation of the league's policy on performance enhancers. When the suspension was announced, Quinn said there was a "broken" trust with Collins, who also was suspended for the first four games in 2016.

COACHING TURNOVER: There were several changes on Quinn's coaching staff , including new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian. Marquand Manuel was promoted to defensive coordinator. Quinn dismissed last season's defensive coordinator Richard Smith and lost offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, now San Francisco's coach.

DRAFTING FOR DEFENSE: Atlanta's top two picks in the last three NFL drafts have been defensive players. That includes first-rounders Vic Beasley in 2015, Keanu Neal in 2016 and Takkarist McKinley this year. The defense-first focus is paying off, as Beasley led the NFL with 15 1-2 sacks last year. The Falcons held four of their last six regular-season opponents under 20 points last season, and led Aaron Rodgers and the Packers 31-0 in the NFC championship game before winning 44-21.

TOUGH DIVISION: The difficulty of play in the NFC South may help to keep the Falcons focused on winning their division before they worry about a return to the Super Bowl. "That's where the mindset has to be to get where you want to go," Quinn said. "It starts with your division."

© Copyright 2018
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
After helping Nats clinch, Braves rout NL East champs 8-0
Freddie Freeman hit a three-run home run off Gio Gonzalez and Julio Teheran threw seven shutout innings as the Atlanta Braves beat the Washington Nationals 8-0 on Tuesday night...
6:18AM ( 1 hour ago )
No. 13 Georgia's 'spike squad' defense winning with speed
There's a new reward for Georgia defensive players who create turnovers — golden shoulder pads adorned with spikes...
6:11AM ( 1 hour ago )
Sanders edges Smith for Hartwell Crate Late Model win
Danny Sanders led wire-to-wire in Saturday night’s Crate Late Model feature to score the win at Georgia’s Hartwell Speedway. But it wasn’t at all easy for the Nicholson, Georgia speedster.
6:00AM ( 1 hour ago )
Watson gets his first NFL action, makes bid for starting role
The Texans, who have had a revolving door at quarterback in recent years, face a quarterback controversy heading into Thursday's game against the Bengals after Tom Savage was benched at halftime for rookie Deshaun Watson.
11:23PM ( 2 days ago )
Atlanta United opens Mercedes Benz residency in style thanks to 3-0 win
Atlanta United opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium in grand fashion Sunday, defeating FC Dallas 3-0 in front of a sold-out crowd of 45,314.
11:21PM ( 2 days ago )
Falcons start season 1-0 with exciting win over Bears
Matt Ryan threw an 88-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper and led two fourth-quarter scoring drives, and the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons held on to beat the Chicago Bears 23-17 in the season opener on Sunday.
4:18PM ( 2 days ago )
Professional Sports
Falcons escape Week 1 with lackluster win, look to Packers
After a historic collapse in the Super Bowl and a winless preseason, the Atlanta Falcons were rather desperate for a victory. With that out of the way, there are plenty of concerns heading into Week 2...
By The Associated Press
10:22PM ( 1 day ago )
After epic collapse, Falcons hope big run starts with Bears
From billboards to social media, the Atlanta Falcons were the punchline of the offseason following their epic Super Bowl collapse. No more time to dwell on that now. The Falcons come into the season eyeing another big run, and that starts with the opener against the Chicago Bears on Sunday...
By The Associated Press
7:00PM ( 5 days ago )
Falcons' Julio Jones says he's completely healthy for opener
All-Pro receiver Julio Jones said Thursday that he is 100 percent healthy with the Atlanta Falcons' opener three days away at Chicago...
By The Associated Press
6:54PM ( 5 days ago )
Falcons cut Hageman following 2016 domestic violence charges
The Atlanta Falcons have released defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman two days after he was placed on the commissioner's exempt list because of domestic violence charges in 2016...
By The Associated Press
9:45AM ( 1 week ago )
Falcons' DT Hageman on exempt list as NFL reviews charges
Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman was placed on the Commissioner's Exempt List on Saturday as the result of 2016 domestic violence-related charges...
By The Associated Press
8:37PM ( 1 week ago )