It's 2010 all over again for the Atlanta Falcons.
Just like two seasons back, the Falcons finished 13-3 in the regular season. Once again, they have the top seed and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
This time, they vow they're mature enough to make the most of the opportunity.
The Falcons will try to end their recent trend of first-game postseason exits Sunday when they play the streaking Seattle Seahawks in the divisional playoffs. The Falcons had a first-round bye last week while rookie quarterback Russell Wilson led Seattle to a 24-14 comeback win at the Washington Redskins.
The Seahawks (12-5) bring a six-game winning streak to Atlanta.
Atlanta had never managed back-to-back winning seasons before a new era began in 2008 with general manager Thomas Dimitroff, coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons have five straight winning records and four playoff seasons, including three straight.
So far, all the regular-season success has led only to postseason disappointment. Smith and Ryan are 0-3 in the postseason, including a home loss to Green Bay in 2010 and an ugly 24-2 loss at the Giants last year.
The Falcons say they've learned from the playoff defeats and are better prepared this year.
"We've been here in the past before and now we're more mature," said safety Thomas DeCoud. "We know what we can and cannot do.
"It's a sense of pride, more of an internal sense of pressure rather than anything external. As professional athletes we all want to go out there and perform well and get this monkey off our backs, so to speak."
The Falcons can only marvel at Wilson's ability to pull off a road win in his first playoff game. Wilson completed 15 of 26 passes for 187 yards and ran for 67 yards in last week's win. Seattle overcame a 14-0 deficit to beat the Redskins.
Wilson, a third-round pick, has outlasted Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III in the playoffs.
"My expectations are very high," Wilson said. "That's allowed me to be where I am today. If I listen to everybody who said I can't do it, there's no way I could play in the National Football League, there's no way I'd be starting in the National Football League. There's no way I'd be here today."
Center Todd McClure, in his 13th season, is the only holdover from the last Atlanta team to win a playoff game, in 2004.
"I feel like this is the best team I've been on since I've been here," McClure said. "I'm not just saying that. I feel like this is the best opportunity I've had and we've had to make a run. We have to go out on Sunday and execute. We have to play our best football to win this game and I think we're ready for it."
The 35-year-old McClure says he thinks he'll return for another season. Tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is 36, says he's 95 percent certain he will retire even though he made his 13th Pro Bowl. Among other key veterans on the team are cornerback Asante Samuel and running back Michael Turner.
Looking back at 2010 and 2011, McClure says the Falcons are fortunate to have this opportunity to make up for past postseason failures. He says there is no assurance there will be another chance.
"These opportunities in the playoffs, they don't happen every year," McClure said. "Some teams seem like they're in just about every year but you look over guys' careers and it's hard to get in the playoffs. Even if I do play another year it's not a certainty I'll be back in this situation. It's like that for everybody in this locker room. We want to take advantage of where we're at."
The Falcons' offense has evolved in the five seasons under Smith, whose early teams featured Turner's runs. First-year offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter made this a pass-first offense with more screens and more big plays for Gonzalez and receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones.
Ryan set franchise marks with 4,719 yards passing and 32 touchdowns while completing 68.6 percent of his passes for another record.
"Obviously we've got a tough seed in front of us," Wilson said. "We're going to Atlanta. It's going to be a hostile crowd. ... We just need to enjoy what it is and see what happens."
It's 2010 all over again for the Atlanta Falcons.
- Local Sports
Tattnall Square tops Tiftarea, 6-2
Ernie Banks used to say, "let's play two." In a game that was as long as two and was defined early on by errors and later by a pitching duel, it would be offense that propelled the Tattnall Square Trojans past the Tiftarea Academy Panthers, 6-2 in 14 innings. Tattnall, who won the first game of the series, 4-1 before dropping game two, 6-3, will meet Mount de Sales in the Class AAA semifinals next week.
Loop the Lake coming June 1
The 2013 Lake Blackshear Loop the Lake 5K Run, 1 Mile Fun Run/Walk and Stroller Roll benefiting GraceWay Recovery Residence will be held on Saturday, June 1 at the Lake Blackshear Resort and Golf Club.
The quarterfinals series between the Tiftarea Academy Panthers and defending state Class AAA champions Tattnall Square Trojans matched up two of the top teams in the state and after two games, the battle has been a stalemate. The Trojans won the first game 4-1, while the Panthers took game two, 6-3. Game three will be today at 2 p.m.
Tiftarea hosts defending state champs
Coach Brad Porter and the Tiftarea Academy Panthers have been taking the road to the GISA state Class AAA championship one obstacle at a time. As Region 3's No. 1 seed they are entitled to host the quarterfinals round, which starts at 4 p.m. today in Chula. However, their obstacle is a big one: the defending state champions, the Tattnall Square Trojans.
First inning dooms Devils
For a team used to deciding games late, it was the first inning that hurt the Tift County Blue Devils Wednesday. Two homeruns within a span a three hitters put the Walton Raiders up by three. That would be the final margin in the quarterfinal series between the two schools, the Devils ending their season with a 5-2 loss in Marietta.
TCHS spring football game Friday
Are you ready for some football? The Tift County Blue Devils are. Their spring game is being played Friday and it is the start of a fresh season of competition. The game will be played at Brodie Field at 7 p.m. Admission for adults is $5, but is free for students.
Late magic forces another game three
Metro Atlanta has become home away from home for the Tift County Blue Devils. They have made four trips north for three series in the state Class AAAAAA baseball playoffs. All three series have gone to game three, the third against the Walton Raiders in Marietta because of a miracle comeback 2-1 win after a first game loss of 8-0. Game three will begin at 4:30 p.m. today.
GHSA girls state track results
The girls state track competition was held last weekend at Albany's Hugh Mills Stadium and several area athletes participated in events.
- Tift County spring football game Friday
Quarterfinals has Devils on the road again
Convenience store owners on I-75 probably know the Tift County Blue Devils by name now. They will be making their third bus ride in two weeks to metro Atlanta when they play the Walton Raiders of Marietta today in a doubleheader in the state Class AAAAAA baseball quarterfinals.
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- Tattnall Square tops Tiftarea, 6-2