There is only one man in the Atlanta locker room that knows what it feels like to win a postseason game in a Falcons’ uniform.
“I’ve played in a lot of games and they all run together,’’ said McClure, who has played in 198 regular-season games and seven postseason games. “But that one …that one stands out, and I remember it very well. We came out and ran the ball very well and Allen Rossum returned some kicks, and it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had as a football player.’’
McClure’s memory of that day is very accurate. In a 47-17 victory against the St. Louis Rams, the Falcons ran up 327 rushing yards and Rossum had 152 yards on punt returns and 80 yards on kickoff returns.
“You live for days like that,’’ McClure said. “When you win in the playoffs, it makes all the work you go through in the offseason and training camp and the regular season worthwhile. It’s days like that that make you remember how much you love the game.’’
But McClure is the only player remaining from that team (a few Falcons have won postseason games with other teams), which went on to lose to Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game. Since that season, the Falcons haven’t won a playoff game.
They’re 0-3 since the arrival of coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan in 2008. The Falcons and their fans are painfully aware of that. But McClure said he thinks that’s about to change.
“The maturity of this team has reached a new level,’’ McClure said. “We have guys that have been in this system, and we can make adjustments without going to the sideline. We’re a good, smart football team that knows how to win. We just need to go out and do all the things we’re capable of.’’
Despite his status as an elder statesman, McClure said he hasn’t stood up and given any big speech to tell his teammates what it’s like to win a playoff game.
“I’ve had some smaller conversations and some of the young guys have asked me what the playoffs are like,’’ McClure said. “I’ve just told them that everything they hear about the speed and intensity going up in the playoffs is very true. You have to be ready for that, and you have to get through the first series or two and then things settle down. You’ve got to put it all on the line because you don’t get a second chance. But it’s all worth it if you win, because winning a playoff game gives you an unbelievable feeling.’’
A feeling only McClure knows.