By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Several members of the Falcons say they’ve let Super Bowl LI go. They say they’re focused on the 2017 season. But linebacker De’Vondre Campbell doesn’t appear to be one of them.
It’s understandable that Campbell would have a hard time blocking out the immense disappointment of the Patriots’ stunning overtime win in Houston. His OT pass interference penalty on Martellus Bennett near the end zone set the Patriots up at the 2-yard line, where James White punched in the winning touchdown two plays later.
But based on Campbell’s thoughts on that very play, it seems that he hasn’t overcome the “denial” phase.
“I don’t think he got in,” Campbell told Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne on White’s touchdown as part of a sprawling feature story on the Falcons and their determination to get back to the Super Bowl in 2017.
In the wake of the loss, Campbell said he is determined to be a more vocal leader. But that doesn’t necessarily sound like a good thing for a player who continues to re-watch Super Bowl LI once a week. According to the story, Campbell continually “deconstructs” the Falcons’ loss by taking “meticulous” notes on his own performance.
“Some people are probably running from [the loss],” said Campbell. “Not me. I’m facing it head-on. I’ll watch it till the next season starts.”
The story also notes that Campbell “realizes now he should’ve gone rogue” and “spontaneously blitzed” Tom Brady at times during the Patriots’ fourth-quarter comeback. Defying your coaches doesn’t sound like the best way to lead your team on a “revenge tour”.
The column also spotlights Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who during OTAs pulled a Bill Belichick and said the Falcons are on to 2017. That’s a much better sign for the Falcons’ prospects in 2017 than those of the 2016 Panthers, who went 6-10 as Cam Newton struggled to repeat his MVP performance from 2015.
Credit is due to Campbell for decrying Newton’s sulking demeanor after the Panthers lost Super Bowl 50 to the Broncos. He at least knows that Ryan cannot project that same attitude, nor can any other Falcons, if they want to get back to the Super Bowl.
“You lost. Get up there. Be a man. And talk about it,” said Campbell. “You can’t get it back. There’s nothing you can do about it except go up there and be a man about it.
“He’s the captain of the team. They sulked so much that it definitely affected them last year if you ask me.”
The Panthers became the first Super Bowl losing team since the 2007 Bears to follow up a Super Bowl loss with a losing record in the following regular season. Since the 2001 season, Super Bowl losers are a combined 130-105, which is about a 9-7 pace. But before the Panthers, the previous five Super Bowl losers averaged 11.6 wins in the following season.
Campbell is right. If you lose the Super Bowl, be a man and talk about it … after the game. Not in August.
The recent history of most Super Bowl-losing teams would suggest that the Falcons will not plummet like the Panthers did. It’s a good sign that Ryan is focused on moving forward. But it’s not the best sign that Campbell, who wishes he had “spoken up” more near the end of the Super Bowl, still won’t give White credit for the touchdown that decided the game. Or simply put that game in the rearview mirror like he should.
Campbell is doing the best to use the Falcons’ loss to the Patriots to his benefit. But his denial of White’s touchdown, and feelings of regret that he didn’t go rogue, exhibit a relative lack of focus on what really matters – which is the coming season.
The Falcons play five games before they head to Foxboro for the Super Bowl rematch in Week 7. Campbell better hope that he and the team have truly, actually put the Super Bowl loss behind them by then.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.