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Atlanta Falcons Greatest Moments Bracket: Region 3, Round 1

This is the third of four articles looking at the first round of our “Greatest Falcons Moments” bracket. Your votes determine the winners.

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 in a head to head format (matchups have been determined by seeding, and are identical to what you would see during 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 third 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 leads the underdog Falcons to playoff victory against the Packers at Lambeau Field (2002)

vs.

16) Matt Bryant kicks game-winning FG against Packers (2010)

The excitement and promise of the Mike Vick era in Atlanta reached a fever pitch in the 2002 playoffs, when the second-year quarterback led Atlanta to a decisive playoff victory in cold Green Bay in the Wildcard round. This was the Packers’ first playoff loss at Lambeau Field ever (13-0 previously), and was Packer quarterback Brett Favre’s first career loss in sub-34 degree temperature (35-0 previously). Atlanta’s defense and their “DVD” rushing attack put it all together to create one of the most memorable playoff moments ever for the franchise.

The 2010 Falcons were rolling with an 8-2 record going into a Week 12 home date against the impressive Packers. Despite an incredible performance by Aaron Rodgers, the Falcons rode Michael Turner to a fantastic offensive output and it was Matt Bryant who delivered yet again when called upon, nailing a 47-yard field goal for the win. This was in the middle of an 8-game winning streak which helped the Birds secure the 1-seed in the NFC.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    1) Mike Vick leads the underdog Falcons to playoff victory against the Packers at Lambeau Field (2002)
    (150 votes)
  • 9%
    16) Matt Bryant kicks game-winning FG against Packers (2010)
    (16 votes)
166 votes total Vote Now

8) Deion Jones pick 6 helps beat the Saints on MNF (2016)

vs.

9) Julio Jones game-winning screen pass touchdown beats Philadelphia on SNF (2019)

An early season Monday Night Football game against the New Orleans, on the 10-year anniversary of the Louisiana Superdome re-opening along with Steve Gleason’s blocked punt, was expected to be a difficult test for the 2016 Falcons. However, the offense put on a clinic on the national stage and it was rookie Deion Jones (a Louisiana native) who put the exclamation point on this one in the form of a 90-yard pick 6 which put the game out of reach. Atlanta’s explosive offense and Jones’ playmaking ability were a harbinger of things to come that season.

The Falcons were down to their last play in the 2019 home opener, facing 4th-and-3 against a hyper-aggressive Eagles defense, down 20-17 on their own side of the field. Matt Ryan used that aggression to his advantage, calling the perfect audible in the form of a screen pass to Julio Jones. The execution from the primary blockers, Jake Matthews and Mohamed Sanu, was flawless, and Julio took the pass 54 yards to the house in easily the most exciting singular moment of that season. Atlanta held on to win.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    8) Deion Jones pick 6 helps beat the Saints on MNF (2016)
    (107 votes)
  • 38%
    9) Julio Jones game-winning screen pass touchdown beats Philadelphia on SNF (2019)
    (66 votes)
173 votes total Vote Now

5) Devin Hester breaks Deion Sanders’ all-time return touchdowns record against the Bucs on TNF (2014)

vs.

12) Falcons upset the Los Angeles Rams for a road playoff win in Wildcard Round (2017)

The Falcons absolutely plastered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an early-season Thursday Night Football matchup in 2014. The game was well in hand early in the second quarter after Devin Hester scored a 20-yard rushing touchdown. The coolest part of the night was the history we witnessed on national television when Hester returned a punt for a touchdown two drives later — that moved him past Deion Sanders for first in all-time return touchdowns. Sanders was in the stadium broadcasting that game, and he personally congratulated Hester on the post-game show.

As frustrating of a season as 2017 was for the Falcons, they still managed to win double digit games and make the playoffs as a Wildcard team. They figured it all out in that Wildcard round, as their defense shut down the highest-scoring offense in the NFL. Atlanta used the strength of the defense and a timely screen pass to Mohamed Sanu which led to a big Matt Ryan to Julio Jones touchdown to secure an upset playoff win on the road.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    5) Devin Hester breaks Deion Sanders’ all-time return touchdowns record against the Bucs on TNF (2014)
    (64 votes)
  • 62%
    12) Falcons upset the Los Angeles Rams for a road playoff win in Wildcard Round (2017)
    (105 votes)
169 votes total Vote Now

4) Morten Andersen kicks game-winning FG to beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game (1998)

(Play occurs at 4:22 mark)

vs.

13) Michael Haynes scores game-winning Hail Mary TD against 49ers (1991)

(Play occurs at 3:21 mark)

Morten Andersen’s kick is probably the strongest 4-seed you’ll ever see in any bracket. The 1998 Falcons were given next to no chance of beating the super-powered 15-1 Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. Those Vikings felt like a team whose name was ready to be pre-engraved on the Super Bowl trophy, but titles aren’t won on paper. Gary Anderson, Minnesota’s All-Pro kicker who hadn’t missed a single kick all year, missed a 38-yard field goal which would have put the game away. Atlanta responded with a Terrance Mathis touchdown to tie it, before Morten Andersen didn’t miss on his kick in overtime, giving the Birds their first ever Super Bowl appearance, and haunting the nightmares of Vikings fans ever since.

Who doesn’t love a good hail marry? In a game where the Falcons were outplayed by the 49ers, they were given a chance to win in the end thanks to four unsuccessful first half field goal attempts by San Fran kicker Mike Cofer. It was a brutal matchup where both starting quarterbacks (Steve Young and Chris Miller) left the game. Down 14-10 with 9 seconds remaining from the San Francisco 44-yard-line, Billy Joe Tolliver heaved up a prayer into a jumble of black and white jerseys, and it was Michael Haynes who came down with it in the end zone. This game had massive playoff ramifications as it gave the Falcons the tiebreaker over the 49ers for the NFC’s final wildcard spot after both teams finished 10-6. That was Atlanta’s first playoff appearance since 1982.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 94%
    4) Morten Andersen kicks game-winning FG to beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game (1998)
    (154 votes)
  • 5%
    13) Michael Haynes scores game-winning Hail Mary TD against 49ers (1991)
    (9 votes)
163 votes total Vote Now

6) Grady Jarrett sacks Tom Brady 3 times in Super Bowl 51 (2016)

vs.

11) Big Ben Right beats the Saints (1978)

The Atlanta Falcons stole Grady Jarrett in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft. In his sophomore season of 2016, he was already a key contributor for a young upstart defense which peaked at the right time to help the Birds reach their second ever Super Bowl. In that game, the son of Falcon legend Jessie Tuggle put on a performance for the ages, sacking Tom Brady three times in a game where he would have likely been the Super Bowl MVP had Atlanta held on to win.

The 1978 Falcons secured the first playoff appearance in franchise history and they wouldn’t have done so without two narrow victories against the arch rival New Orleans Saints (who were also vying for their first ever playoff appearance that year). The climax of the Week 11 matchup still lives in the minds of both fanbases. The Falcons went on a 14-0 scoring run in the final 2:23 of the game to complete an improbable comeback (they won, 20-17), which was capped off by a hail marry pass from Steve Bartkowski which Wallace Francis intentionally tipped into the hands of a streaking Alfred Jackson for a game-winning touchdown pass in the game’s dying moments. The play call named “Big Ben Right” lives forever.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    6) Grady Jarrett sacks Tom Brady 3 times in Super Bowl 51 (2016)
    (99 votes)
  • 40%
    11) Big Ben Right beats the Saints (1978)
    (68 votes)
167 votes total Vote Now

3) Julio Jones touchdown over Luke Kuechly helps the Falcons end Carolina’s undefeated season (2015)

vs.

14) Robert Alford pick 6 in overtime beats Washington and helps the team stay undefeated (2015)

(Play occurs at 5:13 mark)

The 2015 Falcons made a dream start to the Dan Quinn era, winning their first five games of the season, before crashing and burning by losing seven of their next eight after that. In Week 16 they welcomed the undefeated 14-0 Carolina Panthers, who had just pulverized them 37-0 in Charlotte two weeks prior. Carolina was seeking just the second perfect 16-game regular season in NFL history. With pride of the line, the Falcons fought tooth and nail and took a second half lead they would never relinquish on a 3rd-and-13 hail marry pass from Matt Ryan which Julio Jones caught downfield directly over All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly for a 70-yard touchdown. Atlanta used that score to give Carolina its only regular season defeat of 2015.

Speaking of 2015, the play which got the Falcons to that initial 5-0 mark was Robert Alford’s pick 6 of Kirk Cousins in overtime of their Week 5 matchup against Washington. Washington had complete momentum at that point, having put together a 24-second scoring drive to force OT and having gotten to midfield after winning the coin toss in the extra period. Under pressure, Cousins threw a poor pass on an out route which was intended for Ryan Grant, who fell down. The ball went into the waiting arms of Alford, who kept his feet in bounds and then sprinted 59 yards for a walkoff touchdown.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 82%
    3) Julio Jones touchdown over Luke Kuechly helps the Falcons end Carolina’s undefeated season (2015)
    (136 votes)
  • 17%
    14) Robert Alford pick 6 in overtime beats Washington and helps the team stay undefeated (2015)
    (29 votes)
165 votes total Vote Now

7) Falcons draft Deion Sanders (1989)

(Event occurs at 8:26 mark)

vs.

10) Roddy White burns Seattle secondary in Divisional Round (2012)

The 1989 draft was historic, producing four Hall of Famers in the first five selections (and Tony Mandarich). Luckily for the Falcons, they had one of those five picks. With it they selected Florida State cornerback Deion Sanders, who immediately had a massive impact on the culture of the franchise. Sanders spent five seasons in Atlanta, was a Pro Bowler in his last three years with the Falcons, and a First-Team All-Pro selection in 1992 and 1993. In his time in Atlanta, “Primetime” recorded 24 interceptions, forced 10 fumbles and accounted for 10 total touchdowns. He also played for the Atlanta Braves and would have been the 1991 World Series MVP had Atlanta not lost that series to the Minnesota Twins.

Roddy White was a eccentric and outspoken personality who talked trash and backed it up on the field. He matched up against someone who matched that exact same description in Seattle’s Richard Sherman in the 2012 playoffs, and the two did not like each other. In a crucial moment early in the game, White cut through the legion of boom for a momentum establishing 47-yard touchdown reception in what turned into a back and forth thriller. This ended up being Matt Ryan’s (and Roddy’s) first career playoff victory. White immediately went to Sherman and let him know about the score after securing the catch.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    7) Falcons draft Deion Sanders (1989)
    (56 votes)
  • 65%
    10) Roddy White burns Seattle secondary in Divisional Round (2012)
    (107 votes)
163 votes total Vote Now

2) Deion Jones game-winning interception in the end zone against the Saints on TNF (2017)

vs.

15) Julio Jones goes for 253 receiving yards and 2 TDs against Bucs (2017)

The Thursday Night Football matchup between the Falcons and Saints in Week 14 had potential playoff implications, a choke sign from Sean Payton to Devonta Freeman referencing Super Bowl 51 and as much bad blood as there always is when these two teams meet, especially on the national stage. It was a back and forth game where neither team led by more than one possession at any point and which had the stage set for a game-winning Drew Brees touchdown drive to rip out Falcon hearts. Brees led the Saints to the Atlanta 11-yard-line with 1:30 remaining before trying to force a pass into double coverage to Josh Hill (on a verts play) which Deion Jones promptly intercepted in the end zone. Atlanta snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and psychologically crushed the Saints and their fanbase all in one play. And it was seen by the entire country.

Every now and then, Julio Jones goes into a superhuman mode that can’t be stopped by anything the opposing defense throws at him. Having already been the only player in NFL history to record 250+ receiving yards in a single game twice (Packers in 2014 and Panthers in 2016), Jones did it for a third time in Week 12 against the Bucs in 2017. Julio caught 12 passes for 253 yards and scored two touchdowns. It was all needed as Tampa made a valiant comeback attempt in the late stages. This gave Atlanta their third consecutive win en route to a playoff appearance.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    2) Deion Jones game-winning interception in the end zone against the Saints on TNF (2017)
    (118 votes)
  • 30%
    15) Julio Jones goes for 253 receiving yards and 2 TDs against Bucs (2017)
    (51 votes)
169 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 fourth region of our bracket.