FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Perhaps no team faced a greater burden going into this postseason than the Falcons (13-3), the NFC's top-seeded squad for the second time in three years. They've yet to win a playoff game under the current trio of quarterback Matt Ryan, coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff — one-and-done in all three appearances going back to the 2008 season.
Not surprisingly, the players keep insisting the previous years don't matter; they're only looking forward to Sunday's divisional game with the streaking Seattle Seahawks (12-5).
But the senior member of the team, center Todd McClure, concedes there will probably be some additional pressure.
“We've been disappointed a few times,” said McClure, who's been with the Falcons for 13 years. “I think we've got guys in this locker room who are hungry and ready to get over that hump.”
The Falcons have gone 56-24 in the regular season since Dimitroff and Smith took over in 2008 and drafted Ryan with the No. 3 overall pick — more wins than any team during that span except New England (60-20). But the significance of five straight winning seasons, two division titles and, now, a fourth trip to the playoffs has been undermined by the lack of success in January.
Carrying around all that baggage, the Falcons can't help but be a little skittish about facing a team that might be hotter than anyone in the league. The Seahawks have won six straight games.
“We can't get too tight,” McClure said. “There's going to be some added pressure, I'm sure. But if we come out, start fast on both sides of ball, some of that will die down. Then we can just go out and play football.”
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