They call it "selective amnesia," and it means that to succeed in the NFL as a cornerback, you must forget the immediate past and focus on the present. That's kind of where Byron Maxwell is right now after his tough outing in Atlanta on Monday night and with Dallas ahead on Sunday.
"I didn't play up to par. My technique was bad on a couple of the big plays. It definitely could have been better," said Maxwell, who was targeted often by Atlanta's passing game. Julio Jones caught eight of his nine passes and both touchdowns in the first half of the Falcons' win, and then he added a 44-yard catch that led to the game-winning points in the fourth quarter.
"It's over now. The more I hang on it, the more I can't get prepared for Dallas. That's the next step. That's the next one."
It isn't about the pressure of living up to his free agent contract. Maxwell isn't thinking about his bank account when he's on the field. He's fixed on stopping the man across the line of scrimmage, who also happens to be one of the world's greatest football players.
Maxwell simply didn't play his best football. And it happened that Jones is perhaps the best wide receiver in the NFL, so the combination was, well, pretty ugly.
And Maxwell knows it. And he was upset about it on Monday night. At the same time, Maxwell complimented Jones and the Falcons for the offensive structure, and then he went back to work on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex.
Now, it's all about Dallas and stopping a prolific passing attack that has plenty of weapons, even without All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant.
"You go back to the drawing board, always correct yourself, basically," Maxwell said. "It's definitely something I can fix."
Maxwell felt, after looking at the tape of the game, that he wasn't aggressive enough in his approach. There were times when he could have jammed a wide receiver at the line of scrimmage and instead gave him a free release. Instead of hitting the receiver - "I should have shocked him, and I didn't," Maxwell said - he was forced into a trail-and-run technique and no cornerback is going to catch Jones.
Maxwell hopes for a better result on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field in his NFC East debut. He has a taste of what the rivalry is all about - Maxwell mentioned the banner Cowboys fans flew during the Eagles' Open Practice at the stadium in August -- and he knows the that Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is one of the best in the game, with or without Bryant. The Cowboys can mix up their personnel and use multiple tight ends or running backs in the short passing game. Cole Beasley is a shifty slot receiver. Terrance Williams is a high-grade talent. Devin Street oozes ability and Brice Butler, acquired in a trade from Oakland on Monday, has great size and caught 21 passes for the Raiders last season.
It's been a tough few days for Maxwell. Monday was a tough game. Tuesday was reaction day, and the fans have been, uh, expressive. Maxwell knows the lay of the land. Hey, it's not like he's happy with his performance on Monday, either.
"I understand that's what it's going to be. They're going to react like that. They're going to love you when you do well and hate you when it goes the other way. That's part of the business that we're in," he said. "You've got to take one on the chin and keep moving. Keep going. You can't let it bother you too much.
"Obviously, you hear about it, but you can't let it get to you. You have to be a professional and go out and do your job."
There will be some technical adjustments that Maxwell and the Eagles are going to make this season. The alignments may be different. Maxwell could see a big tight end in front of him or a smaller, quicker receiver like Beasley lined up on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Maxwell needs to disrupt whomever he plays against off the snap of the ball and stay in the hip pocket of the receiver and give Romo tight windows through which to throw, get his hands on a few passes and get his confidence rolling.
"I feel good, ready to bounce back," he said. "Sunday was a tough loss for me and for everybody. We want to bounce back and it starts right here in practice, watching film and being as ready as we can possibly be."
This is a big one, naturally, as the NFC East schedule opens on Sunday. Maxwell has his work cut out for him, Bryant's absence notwithstanding. The Cowboys are coming! The Cowboys are coming? Is the secondary ready for a shutdown performance after such a tough game in Atlanta?