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Atlanta Falcons Greatest Moments Bracket: Region 4, Round 1

The first round of our bracket concludes. Your votes determine who goes to the next round.

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 fourth and final 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) Matt Bryant kicks game-winning FG against Seattle to put Atlanta into the NFCCG (2012)

vs,

16) Brooks Reed gets game-winning sack on Mike Glennon on 4th-and-goal to beat the Bears in Week 1 (2017)

(Play occurs at 0:52 mark)

The 2012 Divisional Round game against the Seahawks carried a lot of weight for the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan tandem, who were 0-3 in the playoffs previously. Controlling everything throughout most of the afternoon, the Falcons led 27-7 going into the 4th quarter before collapsing and allowing 21 unanswered points. In the most important drive of his career up to that point, Ryan completed two clutch passes to Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez to get into field goal range before Matt Bryant nailed a 49-yard kick to send the Falcons into the NFC Championship Game and the Georgia Dome into delirium.

After hearing about 28-3 for months on end, Week 1 of the 2017 season couldn’t come fast enough. It was incredibly important for something good to happen on the football field for the humiliated Falcons, but they did not look sharp against a bad Chicago Bears team, who got to the Atlanta 5-yard-line with 21 seconds remaining and an opportunity to win the game with a touchdown. Following a slew of incompletions, Brooks Reed secured a sack of Mike Glennon on 4th-and-goal to secure a victory.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 91%
    1) Matt Bryant kicks game-winning FG against Seattle to put Atlanta into the NFCCG (2012)
    (146 votes)
  • 8%
    16) Brooks Reed gets game-winning sack on Mike Glennon on 4th-and-goal to beat the Bears in Week 1 (2017)
    (13 votes)
159 votes total Vote Now

8) Defense holds on to beat San Francisco and to secure a place in the NFCCG (1998)

vs.

9) “Little Ben” beats the Saints again (1978)

(Play occurs at 15:36 mark)

The 1998 “Dirty Bird” Falcons, led by Jamal Anderson, went into the playoffs on the back of a 9-game winning streak, securing the best regular season in franchise history, and renewing a rivalry against the division foe 49ers in the Divisional Round. In a nail-biting game that went down to the wire, the offense wasted enough time, the special teams pinned them deep and the defense made a final stand against Steve Young after San Fran got to within two. This win punched Atlanta’s ticket to Minnesota in the 1998 NFC Championship Game.

Just two weeks after Big Ben Right gave the Falcons a miraculous victory in New Orleans, the Falcons and Saints squared off again at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Once again, New Orleans led most of the way before Steve Bartkowski led a furious fourth quarter comeback. With 53 seconds remaining and no timeouts, Bart got the ball at the Atlanta 28-yard-line before driving downfield on a possession which culminated with a 1-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Jim Mitchell, giving the Birds yet another improbable last-second 20-17 victory against the Saints. Big Ben and Little Ben were the reason why the 9-7 Falcons secured their first playoff appearance in franchise history, while the Saints went 7-9.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    8) Defense holds on to beat San Francisco and to secure a place in the NFCCG (1998)
    (111 votes)
  • 25%
    9) "Little Ben" beats the Saints again (1978)
    (38 votes)
149 votes total Vote Now

5) Robert Alford’s secures pick 6 against Tom Brady in Super Bowl 51 (2016)

vs.

12) William Moore spinebusters Mike McNeil (2013)

I don’t know if any singular play, in a vacuum, gave me more unbridled joy in the moment than the Robert Alford pick 6 in Super Bowl 51. Up 14-0 and controlling the game in the 2nd quarter, Alford undercut a pass from a driving Tom Brady and completely solidified Atlanta’s momentum with an 82-yard touchdown while holding up the “A” with his fingers as he glided into the end zone. I imagine that this would have been a bonafide 1-seed had the Falcons not collapsed.

The 2013 season was one to completely forget for the Falcons, who followed an NFC Championship Game appearance with a 4-12 record in what was the beginning of the end for Mike Smith. One of the coolest individual plays came in Week 2 of that year when William Moore, known as a hard hitting safety, picked up Mike McNeil and tackled him in a way that resembles wrestling more than it does football. This remains one of the best singular tackles I’ve seen from a Falcon.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    5) Robert Alford’s secures pick 6 against Tom Brady in Super Bowl 51 (2016)
    (107 votes)
  • 29%
    12) William Moore spinebusters Mike McNeil (2013)
    (44 votes)
151 votes total Vote Now

4) Falcons intercept Drew Brees 5 times on TNF, and break his TD streak (2012)

vs.

13) Ben Garland falls on Russell Wilson to secure a safety in Divisional Round (2016)

(Play occurs at 2:54 mark)

In a pregame speech ahead of a Week 13 Thursday Night Football matchup against the 10-1 Falcons, Drew Brees declared that this was still New Orleans’ division and that Atlanta knew that as well. Brees had broken Johnny Unitas’ record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass earlier in the season and had that streak come to a halt when the Falcons not only kept him out of the end zone but also intercepted him five times. Atlanta secured a strong win and Brees went on to throw at least one TD pass in his next 45 consecutive games after this one. This was the worst game I’ve ever seen Drew Brees play, as Mike Nolan’s defense stifled him all evening.

The Falcons were peaking at the right time in the 2016 season, behind the best offense in the NFL, and they went into the Divisional Round looking to secure just the second playoff win in the Matt Ryan era (both against Seattle). After an evenly matched first quarter, momentum in this game shifted when Russell Wilson, taking a snap at his own 1-yard-line, tripped and fell over the foot of an offensive lineman before Ben Garland dove on him for a safety. That was the beginning of a 19-0 run from the Falcons who blew the visitors out.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    4) Falcons intercept Drew Brees 5 times on TNF, and break his TD streak (2012)
    (129 votes)
  • 14%
    13) Ben Garland falls on Russell Wilson to secure a safety in Divisional Round (2016)
    (21 votes)
150 votes total Vote Now

6) Billy “White Shoes” Johnson scores game-winning Hail Mary TD against 49ers (1983)

vs.

11) Taylor Gabriel shows shiftiness with two screen pass TDs against Arizona (2016)

Steve Bartkowski sure had his fair share of last second heroics. Against Joe Montana and the soon to be division champion San Francisco 49ers, fortune smiled on Bart once again on a last second hail marry, dubbed “Big Ben II.” Down 24-21 with 2 seconds remaining and 47 yards from the end zone, Bartkowski connected with the electric Billy “White Shoes” Johnson on a pass which was caught at the 7-yard-line (on a tipped pass, just like Big Ben Right). From there, Johnson weaved his way through a cascade of 49ers and stretched the ball just enough as he was tackled down at around the 2-yard-line. You’d be hard pressed to find a more exciting finish to an NFL game.

Speaking of excitement, Taylor Gabriel was pure electricity for the Falcons in 2016. Signed by Birds after getting cut by Cleveland right before the start of the season, Gabriel was THE big play threat that took the top off a defense during Atlanta’s Super Bowl run, and he stole the show in Week 12 against Arizona, taking two similar screen passes to the house and terrorizing the Cardinals defenders who had the unfortunate task of trying to tackle him. The Falcons won in a blowout as Gabriel both established the lead in the 2nd quarter and then threw the dagger in the 4th quarter.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    6) Billy "White Shoes" Johnson scores game-winning Hail Mary TD against 49ers (1983)
    (111 votes)
  • 25%
    11) Taylor Gabriel shows shiftiness with two screen pass TDs against Arizona (2016)
    (38 votes)
149 votes total Vote Now

3) Matt Ryan becomes only player in franchise history to win MVP (2016)

vs.

14) Falcons shut out the defending champion Giants and get revenge for 24-2 (2012)

Following some struggles in 2015, something just clicked for Matt Ryan within Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme. After a rough Week 1, everything started humming along for Atlanta’s offense, which scored the most points per game in the NFL in 2016 and the 9th-most in NFL history up to that point. Ryan threw for 4,944 passing yards (second in the NFL), 38 passing touchdowns (second in the NFL), had a league-high 117.1 passer rating and had 9.3 yards per passing attempt, which is the highest mark in NFL history among QBs with a minimum of 400 attempts. The result — he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, the first and only Falcon to ever achieve that feat.

The 2012 Falcons won 13 games and had the team’s best season since the 1998 Super Bowl run (up to that point). Maybe their most impressive regular season win came against the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants in Week 15. After getting embarrassed in the 2011 Wildcard round against those Giants, Atlanta got a measure of revenge in the form of a 34-0 shutout victory, holding Eli Manning to a 38.9 passer rating and allowing only 256 net yards. The victory moved the soaring Falcons to 12-2 on the season.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 89%
    3) Matt Ryan becomes only player in franchise history to win MVP (2016)
    (136 votes)
  • 10%
    14) Falcons shut out the defending champion Giants and get revenge for 24-2 (2012)
    (16 votes)
152 votes total Vote Now

7) Michael Haynes scores game-winning receiving touchdown as Falcons knock the Saints out of the playoffs (1991)

(Play occurs at 3:07 mark)

vs.

10) Falcons sign Alex Mack (2016)

The heated rivalry between the Falcons and Saints went to another level in 1991 when the two teams met in New Orleans in the Wildcard round of the playoffs, after finishing first and second in the NFC West (New Orleans’ first ever division title). Atlanta fought back from an early 10-0 deficit, benefiting from timely forced turnovers and very dumb Saints penalties to see the game tied at 20 in the fourth quarter. With 2:50 remaining in the game, Chris Miller connected on a pass with Michael Haynes at the Atlanta 47-yard-line before Haynes made a move on the defender and outran every Saint in sight for a game-winning 61-yard touchdown catch. That proved to be the difference, dispatching New Orleans in what was their best ever season up to that point.

The center position was awful for the Falcons for years after they cut longtime talisman Todd McClure following the 2012 season. The 2015 season, featuring Mike Person’s terrible snaps, proved to be the final straw as the Falcons opened up the checkbook for Pro Bowler Alex Mack before the 2016 campaign. Mack played out his entire 5-year contract with Atlanta, and was a Pro Bowl selection from 2016-2018. He stabilized the offensive line for the Super Bowl run, and made sure that center was never a position of concern again throughout his time as a Falcon.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    7) Michael Haynes scores game-winning receiving touchdown as Falcons knock the Saints out of the playoffs (1991)
    (101 votes)
  • 33%
    10) Falcons sign Alex Mack (2016)
    (50 votes)
151 votes total Vote Now

2) Julio Jones erupts for 300 receiving yards against Carolina (2016)

vs.

15) Jay Feely kicks game-winning FG against Saints (2002)

(Play occurs at 2:44 mark)

What the Carolina Panthers were thinking when faced with an inspired Julio Jones in Week 4 of the 2016 season I don’t know. A week earlier, the Saints relentlessly double teamed Jones and were burned for it by a brilliantly called game from Kyle Shanahan. Carolina went into this one dead set on giving Julio one on one coverage and the results were as you’d expect. Jones had 12 receptions for 300 receiving yards and a long 75-yard touchdown catch which served as the dagger. This was the 6th ever 300-yard receiving performance in NFL history and it helped Matt Ryan attain a career high 503 passing yards as well. Bene Benwikere, who was Julio’s primary defender, was cut after this game.

The first meeting between the Falcons and Saints in 2002 was a rollercoaster of excitement. Atlanta blew a 21-10 third quarter lead and was faced with a 35-34 deficit after a Deuce McCallister go-ahead touchdown with 2:20 remaining. Mike Vick took the Birds on a spectacular final drive, and even though he left with an injury he got the team into Jay Feely’s range first. Feely drained a game-winning 47-yard field goal as time expired for a victory in New Orleans to move Atlanta to above .500.

Poll

Which play wins?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    2) Julio Jones erupts for 300 receiving yards against Carolina (2016)
    (131 votes)
  • 12%
    15) Jay Feely kicks game-winning FG against Saints (2002)
    (19 votes)
150 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 in this series will be looking at the matchups in the second round of the first region of our bracket.