Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer 77d

Falcons could be fourth Super Bowl loser in 35 years to start 4-0

So much for that Super Bowl hangover.

The Atlanta Falcons, who continue to hear about blowing a 25-point lead in a 34-28 Super Bowl LI loss to the New England Patriots, stand at 3-0 heading into Week 4 of the regular season. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Falcons are the sixth Super Bowl loser to start 3-0 in the last 35 years, the last being the Seattle Seahawks in 2006. That Seahawks team finished 9-7 and lost in the second round of the playoffs.

If the Falcons take down the Buffalo Bills (2-1) Sunday at home, they will become the fourth Super Bowl loser in 35 years to start the next season 4-0, joining the 1991 Bills, the 1992 Bills, and the 1998 Packers. None of those previous three teams won the Super Bowl, a trend the Falcons certainly don't want to continue. It won't be easy, though, as the Bills lead the NFL in points allowed per game with a stingy 12.3 average,

No one expects the Falcons to have an undefeated regular season. In fact, they are 6 yards from maybe being 1-2, with the Chicago Bears failing to punch in the game-winner despite four chances off first-and-goal from the 5, and the Lions falling short on third-and-goal from the 1. But you don't have to be flawless to make a Super Bowl run. The Falcons showed that last year with a scoring offense that topped the league at 33.9 points per game but a scoring defense that ranked 27th out of 32 teams while surrendering 25.4 points per game.

This season's 3-0 start, despite the noticeable flaws, could be a great sign for the Falcons moving forward. Matt Ryan has almost half as many interceptions (3) as he had all of last season (7), and All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones doesn't even have a touchdown, but the Falcons still sit in the Top 5 in scoring at 29 points per game, with Devonta Freeman already scoring four touchdowns. The defense is giving up almost 5 yards per rush and almost 22 first downs per game, yet in goal-to-go situations, as referenced earlier, the defense is tied for fifth best in the league.

Bend but don't break.

The Falcons handled three NFC North opponents and two of those -- the Packers and Lions -- were playoff teams a year ago with a combined 19-13 record. Now the Falcons will have a string of four consecutive games against the AFC East with the Bills and Miami Dolphins (1-1) at home and the Patriots (2-1) and New York Jets (1-2) on the road. The Patriots and Dolphins were playoffs teams last season with a combined 24-8 record. The Falcons know what to expect from Tom Brady, even if the Super Bowl film has been buried, for now. And they should expect to see chances to create turnovers against Miami's new quarterback, Jay Cutler.

As referenced by ESPN Stats & Info, Matt Ryan is 4-5 against the AFC East in his career, including the playoffs. But he also has 15 touchdowns and two interceptions in those games.

The last of those AFC East opponents, of course, was the Patriots in the Super Bowl. It would seem only appropriate for the Falcons to take a 5-0 record with them going into Foxboro for that Week 7 Super Bowl rematch. And a win there certainly would kill any more talk about that hangover.

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