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Atlanta Falcons Greatest Moments Bracket: Region 2, Round 1

Our first round matchups move into their second day. Your votes determine which plays go through.

Throughout the offseason, with some help from you guys, I have compiled a list of what are 64 of the greatest moments in Atlanta Falcons history. I now want you to decide what the greatest moment in franchise history was.

This exercise will resemble an NCAA March Madness tournament, going round by round in a single elimination head to head structure. The competing moments have been randomly split into four regions of 16. The seedings for each region have been completely determined by your votes.

The rules are simple. Each moment will compete against another, head to head (matchups have been determined by seeding, and are identical to March Madness). Whichever moment gets the most votes will win the matchup and move on to the next round.

Today, we will go through the first round of the second region within the bracket. A video highlight will accompany each moment as we recall some good nostalgia from Falcons past. Please vote for which moment you think was best within each matchup.


1) Mike Vick scrambles for game-winning 46-yard rushing TD in overtime vs. Minnesota (2002)

vs.

16) Falcons shut out the Carolina Panthers twice in one season (2002)

There’s maybe no play which embodies the best of the Mike Vick experience better than his mad dash in overtime to beat the Minnesota Vikings in 2002. This play completed a series of seven wins in eight games for the Falcons en route to their first playoff appearance since 1998, led by the electric second-year phenom Vick. The acceleration to get away from the Minnesota defense and to even make two defenders collide was something the NFL had never seen before at the quarterback position.

The 2002 Falcons defense flexed its own muscle en route to helping attain that playoff appearance. The division rival Panthers were completely stifled and overmatched, unable to put any points on the board in 120 minutes of game time against the Atlanta defense that year. It was a complete team effort with five different Falcons each getting an interception and eight different Falcons getting at least part of a sack over the two matchups.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 91%
    1) Mike Vick scrambles for game-winning 46-yard rushing TD in overtime vs. Minnesota (2002)
    (155 votes)
  • 8%
    16) Falcons shut out the Carolina Panthers twice in one season (2002)
    (14 votes)
169 votes total Vote Now

8) Matt Ryan throws 59-yard pass to Roddy White from his own 1 to help set up a game-winning Matt Bryant field goal vs. Carolina (2012)

(Play occurs at 3:15 mark)

vs.

9) 10-second runoff in Detroit gives Atlanta an unexpected victory (2017)

Matt Ryan had garnered a reputation for his fourth quarter comebacks throughout the early part of his career, but he really outdid himself in a Week 4 matchup against the upstart Panthers in 2012. Backed up at his own 1-yard-line with less than a minute remaining, he uncorked one of the best passes of his career to Roddy White for a 59-yard gain which helped lead to a game-winning Matt Bryant field goal to help the Falcons stay undefeated. It was the definition of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

The 2017 Falcons got off to a 3-0 start thanks to a gutsy road victory against the Detroit Lions, which was mired in controversy. The Lions had all but won the game when a questionable (and outright wrong) defensive pass interference gave them a first-and-goal at the 1-yard-line with 19 second remaining. Atlanta put together a goal line stand on the next two plays before the Lions got into the end zone. However, upon further review video replay showed that Brian Poole touched Golden Tate down before the ball crossed the plain. As a result, Detroit’s game-winning TD was reversed and they were helpless to a stop a 10-second runoff which automatically ended the game, as they had no timeouts. Another game where victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    8) Matt Ryan throws 59-yard pass to Roddy White from his own 1 to help set up a game-winning Matt Bryant field goal vs. Carolina (2012)
    (151 votes)
  • 9%
    9) 10-second runoff in Detroit gives Atlanta and unexpected victory (2017)
    (15 votes)
166 votes total Vote Now

5) Falcons execute draft day trade for Mike Vick (2001)

vs.

12) Wallace Francis scores game-winning TD vs. Philadelphia to secure franchise’s first ever playoff win (1978)

(Play occurs at 15:33 mark)

The Falcons were in the market for a franchise quarterback in 2001, and they decided to make a bold move to trade up for the Number 1 draft pick so that they could select Michael Vick out of Virginia Tech. In a stunning move, Atlanta traded the Number 5 pick (which became LaDanian Tomlinson), a 2001 third-round pick, 2002 second-round pick and Tim Dwight to San Diego for the rights to draft Vick, who became the starter a year later and single handedly electrified the city in the early 2000s.

Atlanta’s first playoff appearance and victory came on Christmas Eve, in the franchise’s 13th season of existence. Down 13-0 going into the fourth quarter, Steve Bartkowski led a valiant comeback which saw the Birds score 14 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. Wallace Francis led the way with 135 receiving yards and the game-winning touchdown on 4th down despite dealing with an injury he picked up a few plays earlier. Atlanta was fortunate that Eagles Punter Mike Michel (who was doubling down as the kicker because they didn’t want to sign one) missed a 34-yard field goal to end the game (he also missed an extra point in the first quarter).

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    5) Falcons execute Draft Day trade for Mike Vick
    (65 votes)
  • 59%
    12) Wallace Francis scores game-winning TD vs. Philadelphia to secure franchise’s first ever playoff win (1978)
    (96 votes)
161 votes total Vote Now

4) Matt Ryan’s first professional pass is a 62-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins (2008)

vs.

13) Falcons go on a 9-game winning streak which helps secure team’s first ever division title (1980)

Has anyone ever made a first impression quite like Matt Ryan in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions in 2008? The hotly debated 3rd overall selection out of Boston College silenced the doubters briefly when he dropped back and threw what ended up being a 62-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins on his first career throw in the NFL. Ryan would of course prove his worth as the 3rd pick, and this will always be remembered as one of those seminal moments in his career.

The Falcons had something cooking throughout the late 1970s, and in 1980 was when everything came together for one of the most memorable runs in team history. Having never won double digit games previously, the Steve Bartkowski led Birds utilized a 9-game winning streak to help win their first ever division title and to secure a 1-seed in the NFC with 12 wins. Atlanta never could recapture that same magic in this era, going over .500 just once (in a 9-game season at that) in the next decade following 1980.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    4) Matt Ryan’s first professional pass is a 62-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins (2008)
    (104 votes)
  • 36%
    13) Falcons go on a 9-game winning streak which helps secure team’s first ever division title (1980)
    (60 votes)
164 votes total Vote Now

6) Matt Ryan completes the comeback against Packers a with game-winning TD pass to Mohamed Sanu (2016)

vs.

11) Keanu Neal crushes Willie Snead (2016)

The 2016 Falcons put everything together in Dan Quinn and Kyle Shanahan’s second year coaching the team. Following a series of impressive wins in what seemed like an early season gauntlet on the schedule, Atlanta lost back to back games before making a statement with a win against the Green Bay Packers. With Julio Jones relentlessly doubled, Mohamed Sanu stepped up, particularly on the final drive, in a comeback victory. Sanu hauled in five receptions for 50 yards on Atlanta’s final drive, including an impressive turnaround game-winning catch in the end zone with 32 seconds remaining. It was Sanu’s finest moment as a Falcon.

The culmination of the incredible 2016 regular season, and the four-game winning streak to conclude it came in Week 17 against the Saints. The Falcons clinched a bye week with the victory and they did whatever they wanted to the outmatched Saints. Rookie Keanu Neal laid down arguably the most memorable tackle in franchise history, in the form of a bone-crunching hit on Willie Snead. In a way, that smack served as symbolism for just how dominant the Falcons were against their arch rivals at that point, completing the season sweep.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    6) Matt Ryan completes the comeback against Packers with game-winning TD pass to Mohamed Sanu (2016)
    (124 votes)
  • 23%
    11) Keanu Neal crushes Willie Snead (2016)
    (39 votes)
163 votes total Vote Now

3) Falcons execute draft day trade to select Julio Jones (2011)

vs.

14) Julio Jones scores his first two career receiving touchdowns vs. Colts (2011)

Following a disappointing finish to a wonderful 2010 season, the Falcons went into the draft looking to draft a second WR opposite Roddy White for Matt Ryan to work with, as the Falcons looked to make the transition into becoming more of a passing team. Thomas Dimitroff made his most audacious move as the team’s general manager, trading first- second- and fourth-round picks in 2011 and then first- and fourth-round picks in 2012 to Cleveland in order to move up 20 spots to select Alabama’s Julio Jones, who ended up becoming the best WR in team history. The Browns did nothing with the treasure chest of picks they received in this trade.

Following some injury troubles early in his rookie year, Jones exploded in the early stages of a Week 9 victory against the Indianapolis Colts. Julio’s first career touchdown was an impossible diving catch between three defenders which went for 50 yards. On the very next drive, he broke free on an 80-yard scamper which left the Colts once again baffled. That game was a harbinger for what was to come for Number 11 in his career.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    3) Falcons execute draft day trade to select Julio Jones (2011)
    (106 votes)
  • 33%
    14) Julio Jones scores his first two career receiving touchdowns vs. Colts (2011)
    (53 votes)
159 votes total Vote Now

7) Falcons trade for Tony Gonzalez (2009)

vs.

10) Expansion Falcons draft Tommy Nobis with their ever first draft pick (1966)

(event occurs at the beginning of the video)

Thomas Dimitroff went into the 2009 season looking to get a young Matt Ryan some help in the receiving game beyond just Roddy White. He made a very bold move, trading a second-round pick for the legendary Tony Gonzalez, who at that point had been selected to the Pro Bowl 10 consecutive times and was a five-time First-Team All-Pro selection at tight end. Gonzalez, however, was 33 and it wasn’t known for just how much he planned on playing. The eventual Hall of Fame TE wound up spending four seasons in Atlanta, and was a Pro Bowl selection for the final three of those years. He was also a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2012.

As an expansion team, the Atlanta Falcons had the 1st overall selection in the 1966 NFL Draft. With it, they selected the legendary Tommy Nobis. Nobis was a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first three seasons and was a First-Team All-Pro selection at middle linebacker in his second season. He played for 11 seasons, all with Atlanta, was one of the four inaugural members of the team’s Ring of Honor in 2004 and was appropriately known as Mr. Falcon. It’s a travesty that he is not in the Hall of Fame.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    7) Falcons trade for Tony Gonzalez (2009)
    (72 votes)
  • 55%
    10) Expansion Falcons draft Tommy Nobis with their first ever draft pick (1966)
    (89 votes)
161 votes total Vote Now

2) Matt Ryan puts together a scoring drive in 6 seconds to come back against Chicago (2008)

vs.

15) Osi Umenyora waves at the Saints defense as he recovers fumble for a touchdown with no time remaining (2014)

You can’t describe what the “It Factor” is in words, you kind of just know it when you see it, and the NFL saw that Matt Ryan had “It” as early as Week 6 of his rookie season. Down 20-19 against the Chicago Bears, with 6 seconds remaining and the ball on his own 44-yard-line, Ryan launched a pristine sideline pass, while getting leveled, to Michael Jenkins 26 yards down the field with one second to spare (shoutout to Jenkins for the wonderful toe tap catch as well). That set up the game-winning field goal which was nailed by Jason Elam, and it demonstrated to Falcons fans that they had something special with the rookie out of Boston College.

The NFC South was a hot mess in 2014, with seemingly nobody wanting to win the division. As a result, the Falcons and Saints were both below .500 and still alive for a potential playoff spot when they met in a defacto elimination game in Week 16. This was maybe the most complete game the Falcons had played all season, particularly defensively, sacking Drew Brees five times and picking him off twice. The cherry on top was a strip sack fumble forced by Kroy Biermann on the final play of the game. Osi Umenyora picked up the football and gave a peace sign to New Orleans and their playoff hopes as he went 86 yards for a garbage time touchdown.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    2) Matt Ryan puts together a scoring drive in 6 seconds to come back against Chicago (2008)
    (139 votes)
  • 9%
    15) Osi Umenyora waves at the Saints defense as he recovers fumble for a touchdown with no time remaining (2014)
    (15 votes)
154 votes total Vote Now

The winner of the 1-16 matchup will face the winner of the 8-9 matchup in the next round. The winner of the 5-12 matchup will face the winner of the 4-13 matchup in the next round. The winner of the 6-11 matchup will face the winner of the 3-14 matchup in the next round. The winner of the 7-10 matchup will face the winner of the 2-15 matchup in the next round.

Our next article will be looking at the matchups in the first round of the third region of our bracket.