White is focused on winning a playoff game.
Under fifth-year coach Mike Smith, the Falcons have gone 0-3 in the postseason, but at 13-3 they’re in the same spot they held two years ago as the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
White insists that “it’s going to be a lot different outcome” this time.
In suffering playoff losses to the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals, White thinks the Falcons still had too much youth on their roster to know what it takes to win on the big stage.
“We’re not doing a lot of the young things we used to do to lose games and stuff like that,” White said on Friday. “This was a pivotal point for us as a football team this year. In previous (regular seasons), I felt like we didn’t win those games against teams we needed to beat and this year we did.”
Now in his eighth year with Atlanta, White says he’s pleased that receiver Julio Jones was named to the Pro Bowl in just his second year.
“That was the best part,” White said. “I probably would’ve been upset if neither of us had made it. It made a little more at ease. I really would’ve been ticked off if neither one of us had made it.”
White has more catches and yards receiving than Jones, but Jones caught 10 touchdown passes to White’s seven. They have combined for 171 catches, 2,549 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns.
“Roddy has been so good to me in helping me learn what it takes to be a professional,” Jones said. “We compete just like players at any position, but we’re close and we’re always pushing to make each other better. Same thing with Harry (Douglas) and everyone else.”
White sees no sense in belaboring the Pro Bowl talk even though he became just the fifth NFL player to post three consecutive seasons with 90-plus catches and 1,200-plus yards.
“I’ve been to a couple of them,” he said. “I know what it feels like to be out there and stuff like that, so it wasn’t a big thing that I had on the list.”
Another reason that White is encouraged about the Falcons’ next game on Jan. 13 is that quarterback Matt Ryan has become the team’s most indisputable leader.
When the Falcons lost at Arizona in the 2008 wild-card round, Ryan was a rookie. In getting blown out the last two years by Green Bay and New York, White thinks Ryan might have been handcuffed by predictable play-calling of former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.
Now that Dirk Koetter has taken over the job, the Falcons have said all season that they’re more aggressive in the passing game and able to move downfield and control the clock even though their running game has been emphasized less.
Ryan has “been mentally prepared throughout the whole season for this stretch run,” White said. “He knows we have to win a playoff game. Everybody knows that, and not to put any pressure on him, but I just think that at this point in the season, everybody knows they have to play their best football right now. That’s all that matters, and that’s what counts.”
White overcame a right knee injury late in the season that caused him to miss practice time, but the pain and swelling subsided enough for him to keep an important streak alive.
He has never missed a game since the Falcons drafted him 27th overall in 2005.
“I’m kind of that guy that brings a lot of energy to the team,” he said. “As I know that I’m out there, I know that everybody is going play like they usually do. That’s the best part about it and the fact that I just love playing football. I love being out there with those guys and going out and competing.”