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Falcons vs. Lions: a look at the series history

A history which has surprisingly been very lopsided.

Detroit Lions v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Falcons meet next with the Detroit Lions, who have not had much of a storied history in the Super Bowl era, which is also around the time when the Falcons entered the league. They have won just one playoff game since 1957, but that hasn’t stopped them from beating up on the Falcons throughout most of Atlanta’s football history.

The Lions have a 25-13 lead in the series history. They were a team whom the Falcons could not figure out in the Birds’ first 11 years of existence, from 1966 to 1976. In that time period, Detroit won the first nine meetings ever against the team stationed in Georgia’s capital.

The Lions also had a run of eight victories in nine games from 1987-1997, most of which came during the Barry Sanders era. Those two dominant runs have put the Birds on the back foot entirely in this series.

Atlanta’s most successful string of games was a mere three consecutive wins at the beginning of the Matt Ryan era, from 2008-2012. The 2008 encounter was Ryan’s NFL debut, where his first professional pass was caught for a long touchdown by Michael Jenkins.

Another memorable win for Atlanta came on Thanksgiving Day in 2005, when they prevailed 27-7 with the entire country watching.

Last Meeting

The Todd Gurley accidental touchdown game is what I like to call it. One of the rare scenarios where the defense looked to give no resistance on an opposing player’s run to the end zone, and then celebrated after conceding a touchdown.

The Falcons were in a bad spot when they welcomed the Lions to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Week 7 of the 2020 season. They were coming off of a win against Minnesota, but it was the first win of their season, and they were sitting at 1-5, having just fired Dan Quinn two weeks earlier.

This was a really exciting back and forth matchup where neither team ever led by more than one singular possession. Calvin Ridley and Todd Gurley each scored for Atlanta in the first half, while the hero for Detroit was kicker Matt Prater, who nailed second field goals of 49, 50 and 51 yards.

Despite those kicking heroics, the Falcons had this game won. Down 16-14 and in the red zone, they achieved a big third down conversion after the two-minute warning, forcing the Lions to take their final timeout with 1:12 of gametime remaining.

Already in Younghoe Koo’s range, Matt Ryan instructed running back Todd Gurley not to score. The Falcons feasibly could have and probably should have taken two kneel downs to run the clock down and kick the chip shot—Raheem Morris would later take blame for putting his running back in that position—but instead Gurley scored. That gave the Lions the ball back, down six (following a successful two-point conversion).

With 1:04 remaining, Matthew Stafford led the Lions on a picturesque 75-yard scoring drive, which was capped off with an 11-yard touchdown to TJ Hockenson as time expired. The Falcons invented another way to lose a game.