A look at playoff history in Atlanta

Jimmy Cribb/AtlantaFalcons.com

The Falcons have hosted five playoff games in franchise history, and each has its own memorable story. There have been record-setting blowouts, heart-stopping finishes and outstanding individual performances in postseason action that started for Atlanta in 1978.

The franchise’s first venture into postseason football was a successful one as the 1978 squad edged Philadelphia 14-13 on a chilly Christmas eve day at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

The wild-card matchup between the fourth (Falcons) and fifth (Eagles) seeds in the NFC was decided in the fourth quarter when Head Coach Leeman Bennett’s squad scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes to overcome a 13-0 deficit.

Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski rebounded from two early interceptions to throw a 20-yard score to tight end Jim Richards followed by a sensational 39-yard scoring toss to receiver Wallace Francis with 1:39 left to give Atlanta its first lead. The Eagles, however, drove into scoring position behind quarterback Ron Jaworski only to miss a 34-yard field goal attempt with just 13 seconds left.

Atlanta then advanced to the divisional round against Dallas where the playoff magic they had against the Eagles ended in Texas Stadium.

After waiting 13 seasons to get their first taste of the playoffs, Falcons fans only had to wait two more years to watch their team compete again in the postseason. Atlanta had soared to its first division title during the regular season and earned the NFC’s top seed for the playoffs. After a bye week the Falcons would face Dallas yet again, but this time it would be on Georgia red clay.

The Falcons brought the League’s fifth-rated scoring offense and defense into the game, and their prowess showed early as Bartkowski and company ran past their visitors to the tune of a 24-10 lead at the end of three quarters. However, the fourth quarter would be the Cowboys’ time as quarterback Danny White threw for two scores and Robert Newhouse rushed for a third as Dallas outscored Atlanta 20-3 in the final period.

The 30-27 defeat became the last time the Falcons hosted a postseason game until the magical Super Bowl run of 1998.

After a franchise-best 14-2 regular season during which Head Coach Dan Reeves’ squad ran away with the NFC West title, the Falcons hosted nemesis San Francisco in the division playoffs. The 49ers were feeling good about themselves after coming off a dramatic, last-second win over Green Bay in the previous week’s wild-card round. But those positive vibes would end in a hurry in the first playoff game hosted at the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons dominated the lines of scrimmage on their way to a 136-46 edge in rushing yards during Atlanta’s 20-18 win. Jamal Anderson ran for two scores while the Falcons’ defense intercepted eventual Hall of Famer Steve Young three times and held legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice to three catches.

Atlanta went up to Minnesota the following week and shocked the top-seeded Vikings in the Falcons’ first-ever NFC Championship game.

Playoff action returned to the Dome in 2004, as the new-look Falcons under the direction of Owner Arthur Blank and dynamic quarterback Michael Vick surged into the postseason with their first NFC South division title and a 10-6 record. The opponent in the divisional round was the St. Louis Rams, who were ushered out of the building after a 47-17 dismantling that remains the Falcons’ most lopsided playoff game ever.

Touchdown runs by Warrick Dunn and an exciting 68-yard punt return by Allen Rossum helped net Atlanta a 28-14 lead in the second quarter, and the Falcons didn’t look back.

Atlanta again won the South in 2010 while also netting the franchise’s second top playoff seed after a 13-3 regular season. However, Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay caught fire on their way to a Super Bowl championship and eliminated Atlanta the last time the Dome hosted a postseason game.


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