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What it was like rewatching the 1998 NFC Championship with Jamal Anderson, Ray Buchanan 

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Falcons run to the Super Bowl in 1998-99, Tori McElhaney goes back in time with former players to revisit the game that changed everything. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- I was still 13 days away from my third birthday when the Atlanta Falcons faced the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC Championship on Jan. 17, 1999. I point this out not to make anyone who was there or remembers that day feel old. On the contrary, I provide that information to show how little I knew of the 1998 Atlanta Falcons team before studying it intently earlier this year.

As I grew up 2 1/2 hours northwest of Atlanta, players on the 1998 team went down as legends and lore more than players and people. When I got to college, this was the team you heard about on trivia nights at local breweries.

Which late-90s NFL team made a dance called, 'The Dirty Bird' famous? The 1998 Atlanta Falcons.

Prior to the 2016 season, when was the last time an Atlanta Falcons team made it to the Super Bowl? The 1998 season.

Which two men with similar (but not identical) last names missed and made key field goals in the 1998 NFC Championship game? Gary Anderson and Morten Andersen.

This is what the 1998 Falcons were to me - trivia notes, legends and stories that I was too young to remember. That is, until the Falcons digital team embarked on a project to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of that famed team's run to the Super Bowl.

The project has neared its completion. Hours of work and planning have gone into the panel discussions, led by Taylor Vismor and edited by Jenny Ross. Scott Bair and I had the chance to record a few podcasts with some of these players, too, which were conversations I thoroughly enjoyed.

However, I think the one piece of content that I got the most out of, personally, was rewatching the 1998 NFC Championship game with Dave Archer, Jamal Anderson and Ray Buchanan.


For the first time, the game felt more real for me. Anderson and Buchanan did a really good job taking me, someone who has no recollection of the game itself, into the moments that made the game what it was.

I was too young to know the implications of this game. I didn't understand how overlooked this 1998 Falcons team was in that year. No one expected them to win the games they did. This NFC Championship game was considered a lock for the Vikings. More so, that Minnesota team was considered by many to be one of the best teams in NFL history to never make it to the Super Bowl.

Here's the thing, though: The Atlanta Falcons never looked at themselves the way everyone else did.

They never felt like they were out of it, or that they didn't deserve to be in the conversation or national spotlight. I think that was the story of the game that gets lost in the craziness of the run. This team was confident in a way that goes beyond ignoring the noise of outside expectations. They leaned into the noise. They created their own noise. They made people listen. They made people care.

And people still do care.

Seeing this specific group of men interact with the fan base 25 years later, you can see a connection. You can see the care, from one side to the other.

The 1998 Falcons felt like the embodiment of a city, a fan base. It's something they hold onto 25 years removed from the moments that brought them into franchise history books.

That's something special, and it's something I didn't think I would learn as we watched one of the biggest moments of this franchise's history, which you can see above.

We captured some snapshots of guys from the 1998 team during their visit to Flowery Branch.

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