By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Can someone tell the Falcons to just stop bringing up Super Bowl LI? Because the more they mention their historic collapse, the further it must be burrowed into their minds.
Fortunately for the franchise, one Falcons player who seems to be handling their disappointment the right way is quarterback Matt Ryan, the reigning NFL MVP who remains the most important cog in the machine (as he should be). He’s mostly had an “On to 2017” mindset, focusing on looking forward and sticking to many of the same routines and preparation methods that worked for him in 2016 and has worked throughout his career.
But apparently, Ryan is still watching Super Bowl LI. Obsessively. Just when you think Falcons stories might finally put the Super Bowl in the past, a new profile on Ryan by SI’s Greg Bishop provided perhaps the most Falcons-y headline yet:
For a team that insists on putting that game behind them, learning from it, strengthening themselves from it, they just can’t seem to fully let it go. Hopefully, this fascinatingly direct headline is the culmination of it and maybe they can move on now? Maybe?
Here’s how Bishop leads it off:
“Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan wanted to watch the Super Bowl his team had squandered. He actually desired to relive the worst thing that’s ever happened to him – every misstep, every bad throw – and not just once but on three straight afternoons. Ryan now says he’s focused on the future, ready for another season, past the trauma, if not over it. But first he needed to look back in order to move forward.”
How many more times are Falcons fans going to be subjected to the “Look back in order to look forward” routine? This story has to be especially disturbing, as Ryan’s “On to 2017” comments may only be something that he said just to say, and not something he’s actually putting into practice.
At times, Ryan seems like a quarterback who’s just getting ready for the coming season and using the Super Bowl as his freshest learning experience. Other times, he sounds like a quarterback on the verge of coming unhinged like fictional kicker Ray “Laces Out” Finkle in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
“That game is always going to be a part of who I am,” said Ryan. “It’s always going to drive me, but it doesn’t consume me. I won’t let it consume me.”
It’s unclear whether “I won’t let it consume me” is scrawled repeatedly on the walls of the Falcons’ film room.
The story goes on to detail Ryan’s development from elite QB prospect to good-but-not-great to NFL MVP and near-champion. There’s no question that Ryan took things to another level with his thrilling 2016 season that nearly won him a Super Bowl, and the team’s ultimate failure wasn’t even necessarily his fault. Had then-Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan simply sat on the ball and kicked a field goal in the closing minutes, Ryan’s throw to Julio Jones that resulted in one of the game’s most incredible catches would have gone down as the final dagger to the Patriots’ season.
Instead, it was Tom Brady, James White, and the Patriots eventually delivering the killing blow. But that doesn’t mean they’ve killed the Falcons forever; in fact, history is on Atlanta’s side in their goal to remain in contention for the Super Bowl, as the 2016 Panthers were the first Super Bowl loser since the 2007 Bears to follow up the loss with a losing season. Whether or not Ryan ever gets them back to the dance, however, is the big question.
The idea of a “Super Bowl hangover” has become somewhat overrated in recent years, unless you base it solely on getting back to the Big Game the year after losing it. But predictions of the Falcons’ total demise, or even an 8-8 season, may be too misguided and too heavily weighing the Falcons’ Super Bowl LI loss against them. If there’s any indication that the Falcons can get back to the same level in 2017, it’s that Ryan continues to work in many of the same ways that he has in the past.
But the longer that he and the Falcons continue to hold onto their Super Bowl loss, the more ominous the team’s prospects for 2017 continue to look.
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.