ATLANTA – For many of the Seahawks, the feeling after the 30-28 divisional playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons last Jan. 13 is one they have tried to forget.
For Earl Thomas, though, it’s one he’s clinging to, if only to ensure he doesn’t experience it again.
“Any time this season … when I have felt like I needed to recharge or I wasn’t feeling like I need to get up, I would think about that feeling after that game,’’ said Thomas. “We were so close and fought back so hard and you never want to feel like that again. So I’ve been using that all year long.’’
Thomas, in fact, said he hopes to get the same locker Sunday when the Seahawks prepare for a rematch against the Falcons at 10 a.m. at the Georgia Dome
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“That’s the most hurt I’ve been since I’ve been playing football,’’ Thomas said. The Seahawks trailed 20-0 at halftime before rallying to take a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left before letting the Falcons drive 41 yards in three plays to kick a game-winning field goal with eight seconds remaining.
“I haven’t cried after a game since probably my senior year in high school, and after that game I bawled,” Thomas said. “I was hurt. I was drained. You just never want to feel like that again. So I’m excited about this opportunity to get back and get after these guys.’’
Even if it’s far from the same Atlanta team the Seahawks lost to last January that they will face Sunday.
The Falcons have been one of the major disappointments of NFL season, turning from Super Bowl contender to a 2-6 team that has little realistic shot at making the playoffs.
A year ago, the Falcons overcame a shaky defense with a prolific offense led by quarterback Matt Ryan and receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez.
The defense remains as penetrable as ever, and the offense hasn’t been able to compensate due to a revamped offensive line and a few key injuries. The most notable injury has been to Jones, out for the year with a foot injury. White has missed the past three games with hamstring and ankle injuries.
White, though, might be back Sunday to revive a rivalry with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. The two exchanged words throughout the playoff game and Sherman in February called White “an easy matchup’’ during an ESPN interview, adding “he’ll be another easy matchup next year. This is just fact.”
Seattle also wants redemption for the last two weeks when it had to hold off upset bids by St. Louis and Tampa Bay, each at least a two-touchdown underdog.
Of particular concern is the 405 combined yards rushing allowed by Seattle’s defense in those two games.
Thomas said he wants to see the Seahawks having the same mindset of swarming to the ball they had earlier in the season.
“I think we kind of strayed away from that a little bit,’’ Thomas said, adding that even in times earlier in the year when players might have been out of position “what made up for that was guys’ want-to. It was like three or four hats on the ball at one time and it was hard for me or anybody else to get a tackle because everybody was so good at swarming and getting to the ball. I just think we need to get that back and everything else will take care of itself.’’
Also an issue of late is that slow-starting offense that didn’t score until the 5:37 mark of the second quarter against the Rams and the 1:40 mark of the second quarter against Tampa Bay.
Thomas, though, said the mere memory of January should be enough to ensure the Seahawks don’t miss their wake-up call.
“This is just the next opponent in the way,” Thomas said. “But it has something extra and I’m glad it has something extra because if you can’t get up for this game, I don’t know what is wrong with you, you know?’’
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org