The Falcons are heading into new territory, but they’ll do so holding on to as much normalcy as possible.
For a team that has been to the Super Bowl only once before, with a roster nearly devoid of Super Bowl experience, what lies ahead in the next two weeks can be a bit overwhelming. That’s why coach Dan Quinn is stressing “the process” that got the team to this point and the players’ devotion to it.
“Week 4, Week 8, Week 12, Week 16, Week 19,” Quinn said. “When you are inside these walls, it should feel the same. We try to throw a championship week every time we go . . . It didn’t change last week and it didn’t change the week prior. Our process, the guys have a very clear understanding how hard we have to go against one another to get ready, and we’ll do that again this week.”
They will do it before facing a franchise that is making a record ninth trip to the Super Bowl, with a coach and quarterback who are doing it for a seventh time in search of a fifth ring.
“We’re not going to make it up in two weeks,” Quinn chuckled about the gap in resumes. But he said the gulf only makes it that much more important to cling to the script.
“This experience is different, I want to fully recognize that,” he said. “However, when we do get to the game, it’s still going to be the game. There is a lot of hype that leads up into it. There’s more media exposure that goes along with it. But our process of getting ready doesn’t change. Our intent of how we’re going to play doesn’t change. The attitude and identity we want to play with doesn’t change. Those things are going to stay really consistent and really the same.”
It’s something the Falcons were relying on even while the confetti was falling at the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
“We’re gonna do what we do,” wide receiver Julio Jones said of how having the eyes of the football world on them might alter their preparation. “It doesn’t matter, everything on the outside. Everything is in house with us. We’re going to continue to do what we do. We’re going to keep working.”
Quinn is making his first Super Bowl visit as a head coach, but he was part of the game in two of the previous three years as an assistant with the Seahawks. When the Falcons had their bye two weeks ago, he sat down and outlined the plan for these weeks, which will include practicing and preparing in Atlanta at the beginning of this week, flying to Houston on Sunday, then immersing the team in Super Bowl LI’s whirlwind before regrouping to bring the focus back to football in the days before the game.
“I’ve gone when it’s gone well and I’ve gone when it hasn’t,” Quinn said. “I knew some of the things I really liked, some of the others that were pitfalls.”
The biggest of them this time may be the Patriots themselves. Quinn spoke briefly about their expansive offensive playbook and attention to detail.
“We’re going to have a hell of a challenge and have to battle,” he said.
But that won’t be any different, just as this week won’t be. Even after beating the Packers, 44-21, on Sunday, Quinn said he was happy with “the appropriate amount of excitement” from the players.
“Winning the NFC championship affords you a chance at the next opportunity,” he said. “That’s what I wanted our team to feel like, and it did. Going to the Super Bowl is not the reward. It’s playing really well and winning.”
Notes & quotes: Think of the Falcons and the Super Bowl, and the name that probably comes to mind right away is Eugene Robinson. He was the Pro Bowl safety arrested for soliciting a prostitute in Miami the night before the franchise’s only previous appearance in the Super Bowl in 1999. Robinson played the next day and the Falcons lost to the Broncos. Quinn said he’ll have no special rules or speeches regarding such dangers. “On some teams you might worry, but not this team,” he said. “They’re playing for something bigger than themselves. This team, this group, I totally trust them.” . . . Quinn said he is not concerned with the Falcons getting “spooked” by the Patriots and their Super Bowl history. “It’s not something we talk about on a regular basis with them or any other opponent,” he said . . . Jones caught nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns Sunday despite playing with a toe injury, and Quinn said he was “very impressed” by the effort. “I knew he’d play well,” he said. “I could tell on Friday his intent was right, the type of competitor that he is. I thought he’d play well. But I thought he played one of his best games.”