The Atlanta Falcons have had quite the history in the NFL. Since joining the league in 1966, the Falcons have been on a quest for the coveted Super Bowl crown. Although they’ve managed to make it to the playoffs quite a number of times, the NFC South Division contenders have fallen short after agonizing losses and defeats that knocked them off of contention year after year. Let’s go back and look at some key, heartbreaking moments in the Falcons NFL timeline.
2010-11 Divisional Playoffs vs. The Green Bay Packers
2010 was a great season for the Atlanta-based squad. They finished the regular season with a 13-3 record to win their fourth overall division title and clinch the top seed in the NFC playoffs. The team also finished the season with an incredible 414 points which was the fifth-most in franchise history. To top it all off, a league-high of nine players of the 2010 squad were sent to the 2011 Pro Bowl led by wide receiver Roddy White who had himself quite a season, leading the league in receptions.
The stage was set for the Falcons’s journey to the promise land but they had to go through the Green Bay Packers first in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. The Falcons snagged an early lead but the Packers quickly came back and stamped their class against Atlanta. Green Bay went on to hand the Falcons a 48-21 crushing defeat which was the worst loss in Falcons playoff history. The game was dubbed as the “Blowout in the Dome” as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers proved to be the better squad in the lopsided victory against Atlanta. The Packers would go on to win Super Bowl XLV.
1980-81 Divisional Playoffs vs. The Dallas Cowboys
The first few years of the franchise in the league were a bit challenging to say the least. After joining the league in the late 1960’s, it took the Falcons 12 years to finally make it to the playoffs in 1978. It seemed as if the franchise was gaining momentum and was about to turn the page entering the next decade. As part of the NFC West Division at that time, the Falcons were ahead of their class, ending the season with a 12-4 record to capture their first ever division title. Quarterback Steve Bartkowksi led the team to a nine-game winning streak to end the regular season as one of the favorites to go all the way.
In the 1980-81 Divisional Round Playoffs, the Falcons were matched up against the Dallas Cowboys on what proved to be one of the most memorable playoff match-ups in NFL history. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they were on the wrong side of the story. As they did the entire season so far, Atlanta dominated the match and went into the fourth period with a 24-10 lead over Dallas. The Cowboys kept their composure and slowly worked their way back to a 3-point deficit in the dying minutes of the game. After a controversial non-call against Cowboys linebacker Eddie Jones, the Falcons failed to convert and eventually gave Dallas the opportunity to grab the lead with 47 seconds to go. Dallas went on to win 30-27 and finished one of the greatest upsets in NFL playoff history.
Sadly for The Falcons, their struggles continued as they only made the playoffs once more in the next ten years.
2016-17 Super Bowl LI vs. The New England Patriots
The Falcons were playing their 25th and final season in the Georgia Dome, Atlanta and they obviously wanted to end their time there with a bang. The squad was led by QB Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones to clinch their first winning season since 2012, winning the NFC South Division Title and eventually securing a bye in the first round of the playoffs. The Falcons suited up one last time in the Goergia Dome when they hosted the Packers for the NFC Championship Game in January of 2017 where they bid farewell to their stadium with a commanding 44-21 win. With the win, the Falcons set a match-up with The New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
Atlanta controlled the game with their dominant offense and held on to a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter. Tom Brady and the Pats went on to score 25 unanswered points to comeback and bring the game to overtime. This was the first time ever in league history that the Super Bowl had to go to extra time. After a tough head-to-head battle in OT, New England won and completed the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.