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Falcons vs. 49ers: a look at the series history

Two old division rivals, before realignment.

Atlanta Falcons QB Bobby Hebert... SetNumber: X44976

The Falcons travel to the Bay for a date with a former long-time division rival. From the time of their inception, the Falcons were placed in the old NFC West, and matched up for so long with the 49ers, Rams and Saints. At this point, the 49ers and Rams are the teams whom the Birds have faced off with more than any team not named the Saints.

San Francisco generally dominated this series for the most part, currently holding a 47-32-1 lead in the all time series. They jumped on Atlanta right away, winning the first five consecutive meetings.

The ‘70s were evenly split, with the teams going 10-10 against one another in that time period. Atlanta got off to a good start in the ‘80s, with a sweep in 1980 and victory in four of the first five games in that decade. However, the mid to late ‘80s is where the 49ers really owned the Birds, as Joe Montana hit his prime. From 1984-1990, the 49ers went 12-1-1 against Atlanta head to head.

The Falcons have fared better in the series since the teams were separated out of the same division. Atlanta is 6-3 against San Francisco since moving to the NFC South in 2002.

These teams have met in the playoffs twice, and have each taken a turn breaking the other’s heart. The Falcons beat the Steve Young-led 49ers in the 1998 Divisional Round of the playoffs, en route to their first ever Super Bowl appearance. The 49ers overcame a 17-0 deficit in the 2012 NFC Championship Game to make their own Super Bowl appearance.

Atlanta’s most lopsided victory in the series came in 2009, when they won 45-10. San Francisco beat the Falcons 45-3 in 1989 to represent their most lopsided victory.

Last Meeting

It was a tale of two seasons for both of these teams when they converged in Mid December of the 2019 season. The Falcons had started the year off 1-7 and had their playoff hopes buried from the start, looking to just play spoiler. The 49ers started 8-0 and were looking for homefield advantage in the playoffs, as everything was clicking under year three of Kyle Shanahan.

This was the first (and thus far only) meeting between the Falcons and Shanahan, who was previously their offensive coordinator and mastermind behind the Super Bowl run in 2016. The Falcons were looking to play spoiler but were heavy underdogs in Santa Clara.

In a tale of “Any Given Sunday” the Falcons fought the 49ers to an unexpected 10-10 halftime tie. The Niners restored order by scoring the next nine points to take a two possession lead in the fourth quarter, but the Birds just wouldn’t go away, scoring the next touchdown and keeping their opponents out of the end zone for the rest of the game.

Even after seeing a field goal extend San Fran’s lead to 22-17 with just 1:48 remaining, Matt Ryan marched down the field and hit Julio Jones for a dramatic game winning touchdown on 4th and goal with two seconds left. Though it was originally ruled short of the end zone, replay confirmed that the ball did indeed break the plane and Atlanta was on its way to securing maybe the biggest upset of the 2019 season.

Olamide Zaccheaus recovered a fumble for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff to add a cherry on top. Julio was targeted 20 times and secured 13 catches for 134 of Ryan’s 210 yards, including both touchdowns. It was a vintage performance from No. 11.

The 49ers went on to still be the top seed in the NFC, and to represent the conference in the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Chiefs.