What are the worst moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).
5. Bobby Petrino
Five years into Arthur Blank’s ownership with the team, the Atlanta Falcons hit their lowest point as a franchise. Michael Vick was headed to prison for his role in a dog-fighting ring, and Bobby Petrino, the coach brought in ostensibly to coach Vick, decided 13 games into the season that the NFL wasn’t much to his liking. He bailed on the team via a four-sentence note left in every player’s locker, skedaddling off to coach at Arkansas. It was embarrassing, humiliating and disappointing all at once, and it was a tough time to be a Falcon. But four months later, the Falcons picked up a guy by the name of Matt Ryan in the draft, and, well, that’s worked out decently enough.
4. Dallas Destruction
For most of its first 14 years of existence, Atlanta’s football team wasn’t even good enough to warrant notice. But all that changed in the 1980 season, when the Falcons, led by quarterback Steve Bartkowski, running back William Andrews and wide receiver Alfred Jenkins owned the NFC with a 12-4 regular-season record. The Falcons appeared headed for redemption, a Super Bowl in their sights, but the unheralded Cowboys stood in their way. Atlanta surged ahead by 10 points, but then – see if this sounds familiar – the Cowboys mounted a late charge that concluded with Danny White’s go-ahead touchdown pass to Drew Pearson as time expired. Atlanta wouldn’t win a playoff game for another 17 years.
3. ‘Bad Newz’ for Michael Vick
By 2007, the good vibes between the city of Atlanta and Vick had cooled considerably, with the team missing the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons despite Vick’s gaudy stats. And then, in April 2007, it all fell apart as authorities stormed Vick’s Newport News, Virginia, property and uncovered evidence of an extensive, and illegal, dogfighting ring. The NFL suspended Vick without pay, and in December of that year, he entered Leavenworth Prison, where he’d spend the next 21 months. He never again played for the Falcons, but a 2016 on-field reunion with the team and its fans led to his eventual retirement as a Falcon. Vick has tried to move on from the scandal which bankrupted him and cost him two years of his life and career, but even the mention of his name a decade later continues to draw heated backlash from animal rights activists.
2. Eugene Robinson’s night on the town
What is it with Falcons and Super Bowls? The night before Atlanta was slated to play in its very first Super Bowl, team leader Eugene Robinson, fresh off receiving the NFL’s Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award for high moral character, rolled through the streets of Miami looking for a little companionship. He found it from an undercover cop, who served him with a solicitation charge. Robinson played in the Super Bowl, but the Denver Broncos’ John Elway targeted him with pass after pass, finally connecting on an 80-yard strike to Rod Smith. Atlanta was never even in the game, and although Robinson wasn’t the only reason, he’d helped crush his team’s spirit long before kickoff.
As soon as the collapse was complete, these instantly became the most infamous numbers in franchise history, and maybe league history. You know the story: up 28-3 in Super Bowl LI with only 2:08 remaining in the third quarter, Atlanta collapsed like wet toilet paper and suffered one of the most shocking losses in all of sports. A choice to pass rather than run, a missed block here, a miracle catch there and suddenly the New England Patriots were one again world champions. Atlanta could win five straight Super Bowls and not erase the sting of this one. If you were compiling a list of Worst Worsts in NFL history, 28-3 would rank very, very high.