Atlanta Falcons  

 

Atlanta Falcons owner doesn't need closure in Patriots rematch

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An offseason full of storylines comes to an end Sunday night.

The Falcons play the New England Patriots, a rematch of the epic Super Bowl LI, and finally Atlanta can cease answering questions about their 28-3 lead disappearing as the nation watched in awe. This will be, at least, closure.

Except that's not how owner Arthur Blank sees it.

"No, no closure," Blank told NFL.com this week, prior to exiting the NFL Fall Meetings in New York. "There's nothing open. I mean, if there's nothing open, there's nothing to close."

Blank's philosophy mirrors that of his team. Under coach Dan Quinn's tutelage, the Falcons addressed the memorable loss, discussing it openly this spring whenever it came up. They fully processed it. By training camp, they were done. It was over, they were on to the new year.

The painful memories won't fade, but their focus quickly shifted toward the 2017 goals.

"Last year is finished," Blank continued. "I'd say the franchise had a wonderful year, I mean that truly. Both on and off the field. We finished our stadium, the team had a wonderful year, competed at the highest level. It didn't end the way we wanted to, we certainly didn't conclude the way we wanted to. But we've learned from it, grown from it, I think we're better for it."

Yet this week, no doubt the flashbacks will come. They'll look across the field and see the same Patriots as they saw in February. Different season, yes. The Patriots don't look quite as invincible, while the Falcons have lost two straight after a fast start.

Blank joked that he looks forward to every game. But it's clear this takes on a different feel.

"Whenever you play the Super Bowl champs, whether you played in the game or not, you want to have success," Blank said. "You play the champions in any sport ... you watch a golf tournament, when number one in the world is leading, they all want to win the tournament and beat number one. So, New England is No. 1 and obviously we'd like to go out there and have a successful result."

As for the Patriots, tight end Rob Gronkowski said they were given "highly strict rules" not to discuss their February win. No worries, there. The Falcons simply have other things to worry about than rekindling the hype of the rematch.

"I don't think it's an issue, I really don't," Blank said. "Not for the staff, the coach, for the players. They are onto this year. You have this 24-hour rule. You don't have a grace period from one year to the next because you lost the Super Bowl. It doesn't work that way. You don't get six days off when you lose a game to end your season. We're beyond that. Right now, we've lost the last two games at home -- which is not good. We're on the road for three games. We got enough to focus on."

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