NFL

Falcons aim to forget Super Bowl loss with Navy SEAL approach

head coach Dan Quinn is a man of many mantras.

Falcons aim to forget 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 Matt Ryan, 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 Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones, both in their second NFL seasons.

“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.”

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

The shock is that the barely escaped that group, falling 34-23 to the Atlanta Falcons, who emphasized offensive execution this week to devastating effect. The Packers were riddled with injuries Sunday night — both starting offensive tackles were backups, receiver Jordy Nelson went out of the game early with a quadriceps injury and Randall Cobb had a shoulder injury later — so the points they managed is a testament to Aaron Rodgers’ ability to create something out of not much. But the fast, aggressive defense Dan Quinn has craved since his arrival was on full display, too, harassing Rodgers, slamming him to the ground and mostly bottling up his weapons, providing a small counterpoint to the constant reminders of a certain big lead the Falcons couldn’t hold in February.

The Falcons might never be able to live down their Super Bowl implosion — and they almost certainly will never stop hearing about it — but the defense that swarmed the Packers seems intent on burying questions about the psychological scars that game might have left. What they could not do to Tom Brady in the second half, they did to Rodgers early and often. It was not quite as lopsided as the 44-21 thrashing the Falcons put on the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, but the rematch still proved a point: The Packers have not closed the gap with the Falcons, at least not on Atlanta’s home field. Whatever deep-seated burdens the Falcons still bear from Super Bowl LI, they might be able to exorcise with the weekly ministrations of long touchdown drives and field-tipping defensive plays with wholesale jerseys.

In a 97-second stretch that spanned the end of the first half and the start of the second, the game turned completely on two tangos between Rodgers and Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant. On the first, with 54 seconds left in the second quarter, Rodgers threw deep down the right sideline, where Trufant, his back to the play, caught the ball over his shoulder like a receiver. At that point, the Packers trailed by just 10. Four plays later, they were going into the locker room down 17.

Then, with fans barely returned from the concession stands on the second play of the third quarter, Rodgers was rocked by a huge hit to his upper chest by linebacker Vic Beasley. Rodgers’ pass went backward, making it a fumble. Trufant scooped it up and returned it 15 yards for another touchdown, completing the 14-point swing.

On the next drive, with plenty of time remaining for a comeback, the Packers had first-and-goal from the 13 when Rodgers was sacked for a 12-yard loss by defensive end Adrian Clayborn . They settled for a field goal.

Even later, after Courtney Upshaw and Beasley went out with injuries, the defense held the Packers off long enough.

It marks a significant setback for a Falcons team that thrived last season off Beasley’s league-leading 15.5 sacks. The 2015 first-rounder was already off and running with a pair of takedowns in two games this season.

In Beasley’s absence, rookie Takk McKinley will be asked to pick up cheap jerseys and the slack for a defense still bursting with young, developmental talent.

Missing a month of action could potentially put Beasley in a place to return in Week 6 against the Dolphins or the following game on Oct. 22 vs. the Patriots. The Falcons have the Lions next Sunday followed by the Bills and their bye week.

On a positive note, Atlanta shook off concerns over their offense with a performance against Green Bay that featured their two marvelous running backs, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, plus plenty of evidence that Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the passing game will be fine under new play-caller Steve Sarkisian.