Chicagoan Dirtybird915 is our third and final winner.
"Christmas came early in 1995. It was Christmas Eve and the Falcons were sitting at 8-7. The reviled 49ers were in town, and led by Steve Young, they looked formidable at 11-4. Even worse, the always enigmatic Jeff George was injured, and the Falcons were forced to use their backup, the ancient Bobby Hebert. Little did anyone know it, but the stage was set for one of the greatest games in franchise history.
My family had moved to the area in 1987, and prior to the '95 season I was only a casual Falcons fan. Atlanta was a Braves city back then (at least as far as professional sports were concerned), as the Falcons, quite frankly, were a tough team to root for. Sure, everyone liked Deion Sanders and Andre Rison, but whereas the Braves and to a lesser extent the Hawks were playing consistently well at that point, the Falcons hadn't had a good season since 1991, when the Braves stole everyone's hearts.
In '95 though, June Jones got the Birds off to a great start at 4-1, and though they sputtered toward the end, they were playing pretty good football. I was only 10 at the time, but I remember watching games with my friends or my father and being happy that my hometown team was doing well. I woke up on the morning of December 24th excitedly nervous for the game against San Francisco, but looking forward to a great game on TV. As it turned out though, there wasn't enough interest and there was a chance the game might get blacked out. This even though the Falcons had a shot at a wild card berth. "Well, we're not missing this game," said my Dad, who grabbed my younger brother and I and drove us down to the Dome. The three of us marched up to the window and bought tickets. It was my first NFL game.
Hebert, who was in the twilight of his career, played brilliantly, and though the Falcons were overmatched, Bobby kep us right in the game. San Francisco did not rest their starters that game because they were fighting Dallas for the top seed. Some quick online research shows that Hebert (who threw for 307 yards) kept pace with Young who gashed Atlanta's secondary for 348. With just minutes left in the fourth, the Falcons were down 27-25. Hebert drove them into territory, and as time expired Morten Anderson knocked a long one through the uprights, upsetting the heavily favored Niners and sending the Falcons into the playoffs. 28-27!! The crowd erupted and I've been a die hard fan ever since.
There have certainly been great games since then. Off the top of my head, the NFC Championship in Minnesota, the Vick-led win at Lambeau, and even that tie at Pittsburgh, but all of those games were played outside Atlanta. Ditto the game against the Vikings where Vick ran for a 50-yard TD and made several Vikings run into eachother. Perhaps the only home game that can hold a candle to the one I went to was the Matt Ryan-led defeat of Chicago with seconds left, but that didn't put us in the playoffs. No, I maintain that the Hebert victory over the Niners was the best game at the Dome in at least the past 15 years and could very well have been the best game in the Dome of all time, since it only opened three years before that.
My family moved to Connecticut eight months later, and I live in Chicago now, but I've never given up my love of the Falcons. It all began that Christmas Eve in 1995."
Congrats to all the winners! Your hats will be shipped very soon. I'll email the winners with shipping info. Thanks to all entrants for the great stories!