Two rounds of Falcons free agent face-offs are in the books and now we’re left with the Falcons’ sweetest sixteen signings since the free agency era started.
Once again, voting will continue until midnight (Saturday, March 4) so remember to get those votes in! Now that we’ve weeded out the Gerald McBurrowses and Jumpy Geatherses of the world, we’re left with some top-level matchups featuring Pro Bowlers and accomplished veterans, so expect more tight votes and perhaps a buzzer beater or two.
(1) RB Michael Turner (Falcons Free Agent Class of 2008) vs. (13) DE Adrian Clayborn (2015)
Clayborn has thus far bullied his way through a soft spot in Turner’s Corner, knocking Bobby Hebert to the turf before pushing past Ronnie Bradford. But now he meets Turner himself, who similarly has a knack for bullying through players. Can Clayborn’s Cinderella run continue? Or will Turner turn him into a defensive turnstile?
(2) C Alex Mack (2016) vs. (3) OLB Cornelius Bennett (1996)
These two players signed 20 years apart - both of whom joined the Falcons at age 31 and held key roles during Falcons NFC Championship-winning seasons - face off here. Bennett brings 45 starts over 3 seasons with 11 sacks and 189 tackles. Mack’s sole season in Atlanta included a Pro Bowl berth and a 2nd-team All-Pro selection. Can Bennett rush past Mack with an A-gap blitz? Or will Mack be ready to pancake “Biscuit”?
(1) RB Warrick Dunn (2002) vs. (4) FB Patrick DiMarco (2013)
The first backfield brawl of the tournament features the elusive Dunn and the no-nonsense, brothership patriarch DiMarco. Both have a Pro Bowl season to their credit. Dunn has the more impressive statistics (unsurprisingly) and more Falcons seasons and starts on his resume; DiMarco gets the acclaim for creating holes for Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and for being a key contributor towards the Falcons’ most recent NFC Championship season.
(2) K Morten Andersen (1995) vs. (11) WR Mohamed Sanu, Sr. (2016)
Sanu was one of only two double-digit seeds to make it this far, frustrating defenders Mike Peterson and Eugene Robinson along the way. Now that Sanu has knocked off two defenders, does he have anything left in the tank up against the leg of The Great Dane? Andersen looks to add to his 2017 accomplishments - including induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame - with an Elite 8 appearance here.
(1) WR Terance Mathis (1994) vs. (4) SS Lawyer Milloy (2006)
Both players had relatively easy paths to get here, but now face off against a higher level of competition. Will Mathis go deep into the Elite 8? Or has Mathis met his match with the hard-hitting Milloy?
(2) DT Rod Coleman (2004) vs. (3) FB Bob Christian (1997)
Coleman played a big role in getting the Falcons to the NFC Championship Game following the 2004 season, picking up 11.5 sacks during that season and a Pro Bowl berth the following year. Christian, in turn, played a big role in getting the Falcons to the Super Bowl after the 1998 season, paving holes for Jamal Anderson during Anderson’s epic 410 carry-1,846 yard season. Coleman with a full head of steam is a grueling matchup for the very best blockers to account for; is Christian up to the challenge?
(1) FB Ovie Mughelli (2007) vs. (4) CB Ashley Ambrose (2000)
Ovie blocked his way through 2 tough defensive linemen in Dwight Freeney and Grady Jackson and now meets Ashley Ambrose at the next level of the field. Ovie led the way for Michael Turner throughout his Falcons multiple-playoff-appearance career, whereas Ashley led the Falcons secondary along with counterpart Ray Buchanan (who we’ll get to very shortly), including a playoff run in 2002.
(2) CB Ray Buchanan (1997) vs. (3) RB/FB Craig Heyward (1994)
Two former Falcons Pro Bowlers meet for the first time at the very bottom of the bracket. Heyward continues the theme of Falcons fullbacks in the Sweet 16. But unlike the 3 other fullbacks above, Heyward proved highly adept carrying the ball, with a 1,000 yard rushing season in 1995 to his credit. Buchanan also proved highly adept with the ball in his hands, managing 30 interceptions across 7 seasons with the Falcons, including a pick-6 and 4 seasons with more than 80 return yards.