Atlanta Falcons 2017 Countdown to Camp: Day 10 – The psychological hurdle

Falcons coach Dan Quinn after OTAs on Thursday, June 1, 2017. (By D. Orlando Ledbetter/dledbetter@ajc.com)

Each day leading up to the start of training camp, we’ll look at a major issue that faces the Falcons and head coach Dan Quinn as he’s set to enter his third season with the team.

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons, the defending NFC championship, are set to report on Wednesday, July 26 for training camp.

After blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl, the team, while loaded with talented and positioned for continued success, will have a psychological hurdle to leap over.

They started laying the groundwork in the offseason by addressing the issue.

Dan Quinn went to speak with several other professional coaches and refurbished his “embrace the suck” mantra to share with the team.

Quarterback Matt Ryan even made a Gatorade commercial about the collapse.

Now, you sense that because the Falcons addressed the issue over the offseason that they want it to go away.

Sorry. That’s not how it works.

When you give up 31 unanswered points in the Super Bowl with millions around the world watching, your issues don’t just evaporate. You can just sweep it under the rug or throw it into the closet.

We even saw Peyton Manning taking shots at the team on the recent ESPY awards. Here’s columnist Mark Bradley’s take on Manning and the issue that won’t just go away.

So, it will be a rolling issue, as training camp and the season moves on. The Falcons have the opening of a new stadium to help as a distraction, but they need to get use to addressing it as they move forward.

We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the issue over the offseason. Here’s the story: Trek through post-Super Bowl psychological valley awaits Falcons.

There’s also that little fact about no losing Super Bowl team returning to the league’s big game since the 1993 Buffalo Bills returned to play in the Super Bowl in Jan. 1994.

“That’s an interesting one,” said Bob Harmison, the Kibler professor of sports psychology at James Madison.  “One, anecdotally that we look at and say there has to be something to that. Then I don’t think anybody, I’m not familiar with anybody, who’s actually looked at that from like a scholarly or empirical sort of way.

“I think to me, it’s a pretty good reflection that it’s pretty damn hard to get to the Super Bowl. There are a lot of things that have to go right for teams to get back to the Super Bowl. It could be a part of, maybe a little bit of a hangover or it takes a lot emotionally to prepare yourself week, after week, after week to be at that level.”

In addition the making sure the Falcons are mentally sharp, focused and prepared, there’s the issue of good health.

Quinn’s upbeat approach should be helpful.

“It’s very simple,” said Howard Falco, a self-empowerment expert who’s worked with college and professional athletes. “You focus on the positive that you got there and you were ahead all the way through two and a half quarters. You focus on the positive.

“The second things is, how does it serve us to look at it in a negative way if we are trying to be champions this season. The simple answer is that it doesn’t serve them at all.’

That’s what the offseason was about, addressing the negative part of the collapse.

“How you get over the negative is that you don’t even think about it,” Falco said. “All you’re thinking about is this season, this year and what we are going to accomplished based on what we already have built and what we did last season.

“Now, they know it is undeniable. They know they got there. Now, they have to keep pushing until they reach that tipping point to where they win.”

The Falcons played the same offensive line for all 19 games last season.

“Then it doesn’t take much for the train to be derailed,” Harmison said. “You could get an injury here or a lucky play there, and you know that you’re not going to get back to that high level of performance.”

COUNTDOWN TO TRAINING CAMP

Countdown to Camp: Day 10 – The psychological hurdle

Countdown to Camp: Day 9 — The battle at right guard

Countdown to Camp: Day 8 — Freeman’s contract situation

Countdown to Camp: Day 7 — Jake Matthews’ improvement plan

Countdown to Camp: Day 6 — Schraeder’s a mainstay at right tackle

Countdown to Camp: Day 5  — Neal looking to make big leap

Countdown to Camp: Day 4 — Deion Jones to follow up All-Rookie season

Countdown to Camp: Day 3 — What will MVP Matt Ryan do for an encore?

Countdown to Camp: Day 2 — What makes Julio Jones so great?

Countdown to Camp: Day 1 — Did the Falcons protect the Brotherhood?

Here’s the training camp schedule:

Wednesday, July 26th — Team Reports for Camp

Thursday, July 27th — Practice: 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.

Friday, July 28th — Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.

Saturday, July 29th — Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.

Sunday, July 30th — Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.

Monday, July 31st — Players Off

Tuesday, August 1st — Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.

Wednesday, August 2nd — Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.

Thursday, August 3rd —Practice 9:30 a.m. – Gates open to public at 8:30 a.m.

Friday, August 4th — Practice 5:05 p.m. – Gates open to the public at 4:05 p.m.

Saturday, August 5th —Players Off

Sunday, August 6th — Practice 9:45 a.m. – Gates open to the public at 8:15 a.m.

Monday, August 7th — Practice 9:30 a.m.

Tuesday, August 8th — Practice 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday, August 9th — Walkthrough

Thursday, August 10th — at Miami Dolphins – 7:00 p.m.

Friday, August 11th — Walkthrough

Saturday, August 12th — Players Off

Sunday, August 13th — Practice 9:30 a.m.

Monday, August 14th —Practice 9:30 a.m.

THE FALCONS 2017 DRAFT

MUST READ PROFILE: Falcons top pick McKinley makes name for himself

2017 Falcons report card: Falcons earn a B-plus

NFC Champs add a pass rusher, quality depth 

1st rounder: Meet defensive end Takkarist McKinley

3rd rounder: Meet linebacker Duke Riley

4th rounder: Meet offensive guard Sean Harlow

5th rounder: Meet defensive back Damontae Kazee

5th rounder: Meet running back Brian Hill

5th rounder: Meet tight end Eric Saubert

 

 

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