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Forgotten Falcons: Ray Brown

Brown’s name rarely comes up despite a prominent place in the team’s history.

Detail / Helmet

For today’s Forgotten Falcon, we’ve dug deep into the past and turned up a legitimately great player who doesn’t get his due (or his name mentioned) much today. Enter safety Ray Brown.

Years in Atlanta: 1971-1977

Stats: 31 interceptions, 574 yards, 2 defensive touchdowns, 7 fumble recoveries

Ray Brown suffers a bit from two particular curses. The first is that he played four decades ago, which makes his accomplishments easier to forget, since the bulk of Falcons fans have come along over the last two or so. The second is that the NFL simply didn’t count some of the statistics that might make a fuller case for a player of Brown’s caliber, like pass deflections, tackles, and even sacks.

But no matter, because Brown’s contributions to the Falcons stand out regardless, and it’s amazing how infrequently we mention him among the franchise’s great safeties. He deserves to have his name mentioned in the same breath as Scott Case and Tom Pridemore, though, for reasons that will become clear shortly.

Simply put, Brown was a tone setter and a ballhawk on a very good defense that became historically great during his final season in Atlanta. Damontae Kazee’s seven interceptions in 2018 were amazing, especially considering the era he plays in, but Brown bettered him back in 1974 with eight, managing a 164 yards and a touchdown off of them. He had at least three picks in all but one of his seasons with the Falcons, and in 1977 when the Falcons put together their Grits Blitz defense and allowed an all-time low number of points, Brown had five interceptions, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He somehow never made a Pro Bowl despite some stellar years.

Brown would finish his career in New Orleans, which is both something of a theme on this list of players and a bummer, but there’s little question he’s one of the team’s great safeties. He owns the career record for interceptions as a safety and is second only to cornerback Rolland Lawrence (who had 39) in team history for picks, and he has the second-most interception return yards as well. Had he played in a different era or had those 1970s Falcons been more successful, Brown might be better-remembered today, but he’s worth saluting as one of the best ever to do it for Atlanta.