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Only one QB has conquered Matt Ryan's Super Bowl challenge

ATLANTA -- Hall of Famer Bob Griese can relate to Matt Ryan's pain.

Griese, a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback with the Miami Dolphins, first made it to the Super Bowl during his MVP season in 1971. Griese, like Ryan, dropped his first Super Bowl appearance -- a 24-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.

Griese didn't let the disappointment deter his focus on the NFL's ultimate prize.

"Well, there's been a lot of us that have lost our first Super Bowls," Griese said. "But fortunately, in our case, we went back and won the second and third time. The mentality -- and Coach [Don] Shula struck this from the time we lost the Super Bowl until the time we were in camp the following year -- was, 'We're going to have to play as hard as we did the season we went to the Super Bowl just to get back because there's no guarantees you're going to get back.' "

Griese and the Dolphins did get back the next year, capping off their historic 17-0 season with a 14-7 victory over Bill Kilmer and the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. Griese is still the only quarterback to lose a Super Bowl and then come back and win one the next season.

The window for a return Super Bowl trip might be small but not impossible for Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, who face the New England Patriots on Sunday in a rematch of Super Bowl LI. Griese is also one of three quarterbacks to lose in their first Super Bowl appearances and then return to win one at some point in their careers. The other two are also in the Hall of Fame: Len Dawson and John Elway.

Dawson, with the Kansas City Chiefs during the 1966 season, fell to Bart Starr and Green Bay in Super Bowl I, 35-10. Three seasons later, Dawson and the Chiefs topped Joe Kapp and the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV, 23-7.

Elway, the Denver Broncos legend, dropped his initial Super Bowl appearance with a 39-20 loss to Phil Simms and the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI. He returned the next year but fell to Doug Williams and the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII, 42-10. He lost a third Super Bowl -- 55-10 to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV -- before winning back-to-back Super Bowls 11 years after his first appearance. Elway defeated Brett Favre and Green Bay 31-24 in Super Bowl XXXII, then beat Chris Chandler and the Falcons 34-19 in Super Bowl XXXIII.

"Losing a Super Bowl is the most disappointing loss you can have," Elway said. "It's so devastating because you get to that final game and are one of only two teams left. For me, losing a Super Bowl only increased my desire to win one. The pain you felt in losing a Super Bowl felt like fuel on the fire.

"The one thing I'd tell any young quarterback who has lost a Super Bowl is to keep chasing that dream, because it's worth it in the end, for what it means and for your legacy."

Elway was 26 when he lost his first Super Bowl. He won his last at 38.

Griese was 26 when he lost his first Super Bowl appearance to Roger Staubach and the Cowboys. It ate at him, sure, but it certainly motivated him.

"It weighs on you," Griese said. "When you lose, that's the last game of the year. When we got back to Miami, we met one time. I don't know if we looked at the film or not. I know that I wanted to get the film and look at it and see what they did that we weren't expecting and how we can do better on our mistakes.

"It's a loss, and you've got to carry that loss over to the regular season the following year. But there's nothing you can do other than just try and be your best and win every game the next season."

Two straight losses have Ryan and the Falcons at 3-2 heading into their matchup with the Patriots. In a wide-open NFC there is ample time to get back on track toward at least another playoff run. Griese, now a radio voice for the Dolphins, saw Ryan up close on Sunday and has monitored his mindset from afar.

"You read some stuff and you see some stuff on what's he's doing: putting it behind," Griese said of Ryan. "You do everything you can to move forward. You watch the film. You learn from the film because teams are going to try and do the same things. But the [Super Bowl] loss, you just put it out of your mind and just play one game and win every game if you can, though you can't. And you just make an effort to get back that way."

The 32-year-old Ryan, now in his 10th season, appears to be following that playbook, at least publicly. He believes he's been candid through the offseason and preseason regarding his thoughts about losing the Super Bowl, which he says he watched several times soon after the game before moving on. Although the reigning MVP is intent on putting the loss behind him, Ryan admitted it still stings, even if he doesn't dwell on it daily.

"I mean, I think it's always going to be part of you," Ryan said. "I think that's every athlete, right? There's things throughout your life that motivate you to be the best player that you can be and gets you out of bed in the morning.

"For sure, I think from a big-picture standpoint, you certainly use all those kinds of things as motivation. But honestly, it's about this 2017 team and seeing how good we can be. ... That's the mindset that you have to have."