FOXBORO -- They say you can't live in the past. But for the Falcons, that may be easier said than done this week.
“Well, for sure we’ve talked about it," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said of Super Bowl LI. "The biggest thing we’ve said was you don’t get to go replay games. You don’t get to go replay the Super Bowl. We lost last week and we don’t get to go replay the Miami game. One of the sayings we have is, 'The only fight that matters is the one you’re in.'
"That is where our focus is, and even deeper than that, our focus is for us to play at our best. We’re not there yet. That is what we’re out chasing. We don’t want to go into the rematch world because we learned our lessons and you don’t get to apply them until you’re back in them again. If we keep looking back in the rear view, we’re not going to be where we want to be."
The reality is, though, Super Bowl LI and New England's 25-point comeback win is going to be part of Atlanta's preparations this week.
Both Bill Belichick and Dan Quinn have said at different points that they'll look at that game because the personnel on both sides is so similar. Though the teams aren't constructed exactly the same, and though the Falcons are operating under a new offensive coordinator, last season's finale still has value . . . as difficult as it may be for some to re-live it.
“It’s a big part [of the preparations], and here’s why," Quinn said. "When you face a team for a second time in less than a year, it’s almost like, I am not going to call it a division game, but you have more familiarity than when you don’t. You go back to look how they featured the players in their roles last year and go back to look at some of the roles for this year.
"The players also have some familiarity with one another. 'How to a guard this guy? I have to make sure my leverage is right when I tackle this player. When I am in press coverage this release worked, this one wasn’t as effective.' There’s definitely familiarity. We definitely looked back at that game, but also the games from this year, too. That is pretty normal operating procedure when we’re playing a team. We may go back a year or even two years if the coaching staff is the same to see if there’s some philosophical scheme and plays that they are really comfortable with."
FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick said it was "a possibility" on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it was a reality.
Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin was back on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury that landed him on injured reserve before the season.
Belichick mentioned in a conference call this week that if McClellin was ready to practice, then practicing was an option. "If he's not ready," Belichick said at the time, "then it's not an option."
Obviously, it was an option, and the Patriots brought McClellin back as soon as possible based on the league's rules for players on injured reserve. For those who have been placed on IR, they must sit out six weeks before returning to practice. They must sit out eight weeks before playing in a game. Because the Patriots have a Week 9 bye, then McClellin's first opportunity to be in uniform would be Week 10.
For the first time since players could be designated to return off of IR in 2012, teams are now allowed to bring back two players.
Patriots receiver Malcolm Mitchell has also been on IR since the day of the season-opener, though he has not been spotted in the Patriots locker room recently. ESPN's Mike Reiss reported over the weekend that Mitchell (knee) isn't close to a return.
Patriots defensive lineman Vincent Valentine (knee) is on IR as well and could be a candidate to return, but he was placed on the list two days prior to New England's Week 3 game with Houston so his timeline is different from McClellin's and Mitchell's.
McClellin played in 17 games last season, including playoffs, and he finished the season with the second-most snaps of any Patriots linebacker behind Dont'a Hightower. McClellin has the ability to be a versatile piece for Belichick's defense, with experience both off the line and on the edge, and he has been a core special-teamer.
FOXBORO -- Tom Brady missed two practices last week and was limited for one other, leaving Jimmy Garoppolo to pick up the slack at quarterback. There was no one else.
With no other passers on the active roster or the 10-man practice squad -- they released Taylor Heinicke from the p-squad earlier this month -- Garoppolo garnered reps as both the starter and the scout-team quarterback with Brady out. His efforts to make the most of those extra snaps earned Garoppolo some recognition from the Patriots as one of the team's practice players of the week last week.
Others named practice players of the week were offensive lineman Ted Karras, practice-squad defensive backs Damarius Travis and David Jones, and practice squad defensive lineman Angelo Blackson.
Players can earn the player-of-the-week honor for any number of reasons. They may have been given the assignment of mimicking a key player from that week's opponent. They may have gone above and beyond in some fashion in order to make their on-the-field work stand out. Or, as was seemingly the case with Garoppolo, they may have seen their workload increase and managed it well.
Last week's practices may have also served a purpose beyond preparing the team for the Jets. It would have given the Patriots staff yet another extended look at Garoppolo and how he handles the offense when it's his to run. They obviously know him well, but any opportunity to see him as the guy may in some small way re-affirm their feelings on his ability to one day serve as the franchise's next starter.
Whether it plays out that way or not is a separate story. But judging by the coaching staff's decision to award him in some small way for his work, the volume of snaps Garoppolo saw last week didn't go unappreciated.