Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas doesn't cry often, but he shed tears after last seasons playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
"That's the most hurt I've been since I started playing football," Thomas said. "I was hurt. I was drained. You never want to feel like that again."
Thomas was exhausted for a reason: Seattle and Atlanta fought hard in the divisional playoffs on January 13th in Atlanta.
The Falcons jolted out to a 20-0 halftime lead, but the Seahawks rallied for the go-ahead touchdown with 31 seconds to play. That Seattle advantage didn't last long though, because Atlanta drove right back down the field and kicked the game-winning field goal with 8 seconds left.
Atlanta advanced to the NFC Championship with a 30-28 victory, while the Seahawks' title hopes were crushed.
"We were so close," said Thomas, who had four tackles in the game. "We fought back so hard. I've been using that (for motivation) all season long."
Thomas and the Seahawks now head back to Atlanta with revenge on their minds. Seattle squares off against the Falcons on Sunday inside the Georgia Dome -- the same building where the Seahawks' season ended just 10 months ago.
"If you can't get up for this game, I don't know what's wrong with you." Thomas said. "I'm just excited. I have all the confidence in the world going into this game."
There's plenty of reason for Thomas' confidence. The Seahawks are the best team in the NFC at 8-1, while the Falcons are struggling through the season. Atlanta is just 2-6 this year.
"It's going to be great for us to get back in that same environment," said Thomas. "I hope they put me in the same locker.
"This is not the end of the journey for us. It's just the next opponent, but it has something extra."
Kickoff between the Seahawks and Falcons is scheduled for 10am on Sunday. It's only Seattle's third trip to Atlanta since 2002.