What are the best moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).
5. Triumph in Green Bay
Michael Vick was the future of the NFL, but when he arrived in the league, Brett Favre was the present, a near-impassable mountain that blocked any NFC team’s route to the Super Bowl. When the Falcons snared a wild card berth in 2002 and drew the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau, most observers figured the game wouldn’t last long. The Packers, after all, had never lost in the playoffs at Lambeau. And a cold, snowy night would wreak havoc with Vick’s already-legendary scramble game, right? Wrong. The Atlanta Falcons won 27-7, dethroning an NFL icon for one of the most notable victories in franchise history.
4. The untouchable Michael Vick
The Falcons traded up to get Vick at the top of the 2000 NFL draft, sending fan-favorite Tim Dwight to San Diego, along with a pick that would become Ladainian Tomlinson. With his otherworldly speed and moves, Vick appeared set to become the MichaelJordan of the NFL, transcendent and untouchable. And for a few years, he was, with his signature moment coming on Dec. 1, 2002 against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings still loathed the Falcons for the NFC championship defeat in 1998, but once again Atlanta would top Minnesota in overtime – this time on Vick’s magnificent, broken-field, grasp-at-air gallop from 46 yards out. Fifteen years later, the play is still every bit as stunning, both for Vick’s athleticism and for his eventual squandered promise.
3. Arthur Blank arrives
The Falcons had spent much of their existence in a stumble, if not outright free fall, unable to contend for any length of time. Arthur Blank, an Atlanta resident who’d become a billionaire by creating Home Depot, changed all that in February 2002, when he bought the team. Blank brought a business sense to the Falcons that hadn’t existed before, and under his ownership the team drafted future icons like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, while becoming more of a regular NFC threat. Blank’s crowning achievement came earlier this season, when he cut the ribbon on the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Whether Atlanta needed a new stadium to replace the 24-year-old Georgia Dome didn’t matter; Blank added a new element to the city’s skyline and layered a sense of pride onto a franchise that all too often had none.
2. ‘Neon’ Deion
You could come up with a dozen different Deion Sanders highlights, like the day he double-teamed for both the Falcons in an afternoon game against Miami and the Atlanta Braves in a playoff game against Pittsburgh. You could never quite tell what would happen with Sanders on the field, only that it’d be something you’d never seen before. Example: in the last game of the 1990 season, the Falcons welcomed the Dallas Cowboys into the dingy circular confines of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Atlanta held Emmitt Smith to only 34 yards, and Dallas quarterback Babe Laufenberg made the mistake of throwing a ball in Sanders’ area code. He snared it and ran it back for a 61-yard touchdown, one of many he’d score in the red and black. Over the course of his Falcons career, Sanders would score 10 touchdowns: three defensive, three on kick returns, two on punt returns and two via receptions.
1. Super Bowl bound
The 1998 season was a revelation for Falcons fans, so often the doormat of the NFC. The team went 14-2 and, as its reward, got to face the heavily favored 15-1 Vikings in the NFC championship. Minnesota should have owned this game, but the Vikings let the Falcons hang around with conservative play calling. With two minutes left in the game and the score tied, Minnesota kicker Gary Anderson, who was riding a streak of 44 consecutive made field goals, inexplicably shanked a 38-yarder wide. Given new life in sudden-death overtime, the Falcons stormed down the field and Morten Andersen kicked them into the Super Bowl, the first time the franchise had reached such heights.