5 Most Memorable Atlanta Falcons Game Days in History
The Atlanta Falcons have been around for over 50 years, yet somehow they're still seeking their first-ever championship. The Falcons have only reached the Super Bowl twice in their history, one of which ended in blowout fashion and the other with a historic collapse against the Patriots. Despite that lack of success, the team’s fanbase is always ready for the next Atlanta Falcons Game Day, in part because there have been just enough memorable moments in franchise history to keep fans coming back. Let’s take a look at the five most unforgettable games in Falcons history.
Falcons 44, Packers 21 – 2016 NFC Championship Game
Just two weeks before their epic collapse in Super Bowl LI, the Falcons played one of the finest games in franchise history. After the Packers upset the Cowboys in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the Falcons had the privilege of hosting the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay, and they took full advantage of the advantage. Atlanta got the ball first, marched 80 yards for a touchdown to go up 7-0 and never looked back. Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in the first half to put the Falcons up 24-0 at halftime. The second half began with the Atlanta defense forcing a 3-and-out and then Ryan hitting Julio Jones for a 73-yard touchdown two plays later to put the Falcons up 31-0. The Falcons cruised to a 44-21 victory, with Ryan throwing four touchdown passes to lead Atlanta to their second-ever Super Bowl appearance.
Falcons 34, 49ers 17 – September 18, 1988
To appreciate this moment in Falcons’ history, you have to remember that the 49ers were one of the NFL’s preeminent teams in the 1980s and early 90s. The Falcons were one of the victims of that dominance, as the two teams used to share the NFC West division. However, the Atlanta Falcons game day in Week 3 of the 1988 season was different. Both teams started the game slowly until Atlanta exploded for 24 unanswered points behind quarterback Chris Miller and running back Gerald Riggs. Meanwhile, the Atlanta defense forced three interceptions from Joe Montana and a fourth on a pass by Jerry Rice. The Falcons took a 24-3 early in the 3rd quarter and never looked back. It was the biggest upset in franchise history, not to mention Atlanta’s only win over the 49ers between 1984 and 1991. Also, without that win, the Falcons would have started the 1988 season 0-8, so it saved a lot of embarrassment.
Falcons 30, Vikings 24 – December 1, 2002
Back when Michael Vick was in Atlanta, Falcons ticket prices were the best value in the NFL because the quarterback would put on an incredible show week after week. This Week 13 win over the Vikings, in particular, was among the most memorable Atlanta Falcons game days. It was in this game that Vick set the NFL single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 173 – a distinction that he held until 2013 when Colin Kaepernick broke it. Not surprisingly, Vick was the game’s ultimate hero, scoring on a 46-yard touchdown run in overtime to give Atlanta a 30-24 win. As Vick sprinted past the 20-yard line, a pair of Minnesota defenders collided into one another at full stride, both going for the tackle, only to have Vick leave them in the dust. The play best sums up what Vick brought to the Falcons during the early part of his career and is one of the most memorable non-playoff moments in team history.
Falcons 14, Eagles 13 – December 24, 1978
This Atlanta Falcon game day is a big deal because it was the team’s first-ever playoff game and first playoff win, albeit 13 years into franchise history. It’s also memorable because the Falcons made a compelling comeback. The Atlanta offense was stifled for most of the game, and the Eagles looked like they had wrapped things up with a 3rd-quarter touchdown to go up 13-0. But the Falcons rallied behind quarterback Steve Bartkowski to score two touchdowns in the final five minutes to take a 14-13 lead. The Falcons then needed a missed field goal in the closing seconds by Philadelphia punter Mike Michel, who was kicking in place of the injured Nick Mike-Mayer. It was a little fortuitous, but the Falcons finally had their first playoff victory.
Falcons 30, Vikings 27 – 1998 NFC Championship Game
The greatest Atlanta Falcons game day in history – at least for now – will always be their NFC Championship Game win over the Vikings to reach their first Super Bowl. The Falcons were up 7-0 early in the game but then found themselves playing from behind after Minnesota went up 10-7 in the 2nd quarter. Of course, the game is best remembered for the missed field goal by Minnesota kicker Gary Anderson. It was the first kick Anderson missed all season. If he had made it, the Falcons would have trailed by 10 points with virtually no chance for a comeback. Instead, Chris Chandler threw a touchdown pass to Terrance Mathis to tie the game with 49 seconds left. Atlanta kicker Morten Andersen won it with a field goal in overtime to send the Falcons to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.