This weekend, the Atlanta Falcons will play in their fourth National Football Conference (NFC) championship game in team history. They are 1-2 in the game that determines the NFC representative in the Super Bowl.
I still remember that one win. It was 18 years ago in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the Metrodome.
The Minnesota Vikings were huge favorites. They had the league’s best record (15-1) and had scored the most points in the regular season than any team in National Football League (NFL) history.
The Falcons were 11-point underdogs, but managed to overcome a 13-point deficit which was the largest comeback in the NFC Championship Game until the Falcons blew a 17-point lead against the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 game.
Late in the game, the Vikings drove down the field with a 27-20 lead and set up for a field goal by their kicker, Gary Anderson. Anderson had not missed a field goal or extra point all season. With 2:07 left, Anderson’s 38-yard field goal was wide left which set the stage for a dramatic drive for the Falcons. Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler moved the Falcons down the field. After a near-miss interception in the end zone, Chandler connected with wide receiver Terrence Mathis for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds left. Atlanta tied the game up 27-27. In overtime, the teams changed possessions, then the Falcons drove from their own nine to the Minnesota 21-yard line where Atlanta kicker, Morten Andersen kicked a 38-yard field goal to send the Falcons to their first Super Bowl.
As a personal note for me, I was forced to watch the game in the conference room of my office because my ex-in-laws were visiting that weekend and were not sports fans and would not have allowed me to watch the game. Having been a Falcons’ fan for so long, I was not going to miss that game and went to “work” for that afternoon. When Andersen made the game-winning field goal, I was alone and laid out on the floor. I was totally overcome with emotions. The unthinkable had happened.
Here are some other facts related to the game:
- The Falcons unfortunately lost the Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos, 34-19 in Miami two weeks later.
- It was the first NFC Championship Game to go to overtime.
- Falcons’ fans at the game claim that grounds crew opened doors to the stadium when the Falcons had the ball.
- Noise was never a factor. The Falcons managed the game in spite of the much credit given to the stadium noise.
- Chandler played for the Falcons for three more seasons eventually replaced by Michael Vick in 2002. Chandler played two more seasons before retiring.
- Morten Andersen was with the Falcons two more seasons then bounced around to the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings before returning to Atlanta where he finished his career in 2007.
- Gary Anderson, who missed the key field goal, played with the Vikings for four more seasons then for the Tennessee Titans before retiring in 2004. Anderson kicked a 46-yard field with 29 seconds remaining to give the Titans a 20-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens in the American Football Conference (AFC) Wild Card game in 2004.
- The Vikings have been to two NFC title games since 1998-99, losing to the New York Giants 41-0 and New Orleans Saints 31-28.
- The Falcons have also lost two NFC title games since 1998-99. They lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 and San Francisco 49ers 28-24.
This weekend, the Falcons will host the Green Bay Packers in the final game played at the Georgia Dome. The winner will advance to Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas.