Falcons aim to forget Super Bowl loss with Navy SEAL approach

Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is a man of many mantras.

Falcons aim to forget Super Bowl loss with Navy SEAL approach

Look around the team’s training complex, and they’re prominently seen everywhere, from walls to wristbands. Ball, battle, brotherhood. Embrace the Suck. And then, there’s the granddaddy of them all:

The Standard.

But that one isn’t publicly posted. The page-long doctrine is inside their lockers where no one can see it. It’s glued inside notebooks that were given to each player. It was disseminated to every member of the team, including the coaching staff. It was written in the spring of 2016, without guidelines from Quinn or any other coaches, by the team’s “Chiefs,” a group of players elected by their peers to uphold the standard.

“[They’re] a sounding board to the coaching staff, the front office, everybody in the organization,” said quarterback , reigning league MVP (and a Chief). “But also to monitor the locker room. Guys that are Chiefs take that as a high responsibility, to be a good leader and to take care of your teammates.”

Chiefs also include young players like safety and linebacker , both in their second seasons.

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“Leadership comes at every level,” Quinn said. “A Chief was someone that you went to for direction. And if you had a question, you’d go ask a Chief. The Chiefs on our team are significant factors in the development of this accountability.”

Accountability is at the core of The Atlanta Falcons Standard. And Quinn said it guides the organization each day.

“There have been men on our team before us and there will be men on this team after us,” said Quinn, reciting a line in the Standard that most typifies its meaning. “But it’s our responsibility while we’re here to make sure that we support and represent one another every day.”

Ryan said he constantly references the Standard: “Paying attention to the details in an install for the fifth time you have gone through it. To me, that is where I click in and uphold the Standard.”

It’s not unusual for an NFL team to have a code or leadership council. But for the Falcons, these concepts spawned from a unique place: training.

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Nike Falcons #81 Austin Hooper Red Team Color Men’s Stitched NFL Vapor Untouchable Limited Jersey

“Interesting story,” Quinn recalled. “After the 2015 season, there was a player who had been released. And he went downstairs, and he didn’t know that I was behind him. And he had talked to another teammate and he said, ‘Hey, man, good luck.’ And this player said, ‘Let’s keep up — let me get your phone number.’ And they played the same positon. It was like a dagger. And that’s where it began for me, to say that we’re not as connected as we need to be. We were a neighborhood, and we needed to become a brotherhood.”

So, that offseason, Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff brainstormed some ideas about how to make the team connection stronger. Dimitroff, an avid cyclist who loves to pick the brains of colleagues in other sports, was out riding one day with Phil Southerland, the CEO of Team , a pro cycling team composed of diabetic riders. Southerland told his friend about his team’s work with Acumen Performance Group, a company run by former Navy SEALs that aims to teach clients leadership and team-building via the stresses of mental and physical training. Southerland showed Dimitroff pictures of his riders carrying heavy logs, and the light went off for the Falcons GM — this could provide the connection he and his coach were looking for.

The backs are back. After Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for just 52 rushing yards in Week 1, the Falcons’ dynamic duo fell right back into 2016 form, rushing for 126 combined yards and two scores. Maybe it was the speedy home turf, or maybe it was the absence of the aforementioned Daniels. But for those wondering if the Steve Sarkisian-coached Falcons would somehow deviate from the successful back-centric formula that took Atlanta to the Super Bowl, think again.

Kevin King proved to be a welcome addition to Green Bay’s beleaguered secondary, closing in on tackles and shadowing Julio Jones occasionally. But the rookie cornerback wasn’t enough to contain the Falcons’ unstoppable wideout whose lateral speed gave the Packers secondary fits once again. Julio set the tone early with four catches of 10-plus yards, all in the first half. Green Bay fans would be forgiven for suffering serious deja vu from the NFC Championship game, when Jones burned the Pack for 180 yards on nine catches. But it’s hard to blame Dom Capers’ unit; there are few, if any, defensive back groupings in the nation who can slow Jones to a halt.

Atlanta had to deal with its fair share of injuries as well. Beasley exited with a hamstring injury in the second half, but the affliction that could have derailed the Falcons’ evening came on the offensive line when starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder was sidelined with a concussion in the first quarter. Broncos castoff Ty Sambrailo stepped in and, save for one Clay Matthews stunt sack, protected Matt Ryan jersey well. Sometimes a liability in Denver, Sambrailo passed his first test in the Peach State.

The 25-point blown lead was the largest in history. None of the three previous teams to blow a lead of 10-plus points to lose the Super Bowl made it back to the championship game the following season, per NFL Research. However, the past two teams to do so (2015 Seahawks, 2000 Colts) each finished 10-6 and returned to the playoffs.

NFL Network’s agreed with Smith that things won’t go as smoothly for the Falcons as 2016, but pointed to the change at offensive coordinator from Kyle Shanahan to as the main reason.

“It takes so much to get to that game. And you think, ‘ah man we’ll go back next year’ or ‘we’ll have an easy chance to go back.’ And most teams never see it once, better yet see it twice. Are they going to have a hangover? I think they will,” Robinson said. “But for me, losing Kyle Shanahan, the play-caller, the way they used to move Julio Jones all the way around. To me, I thought Kyle Shanahan did a masterful job last season. A masterful job last season of creating free releases for Julio Jones. And when this guy gets going, he’s scary going down the field. He’s fast, and he’s scary. So, I’m looking at this offense and seeing if they can kind of recapture some of that magic from last year.”

The Falcons start their season on the road against a Bears team with major question marks on both sides of the ball. It could be a fortuitous matchup to help Atlanta toss some dirt on the demons that have haunted them all offseason.