The Falcons have been to the postseason 24 times in their 53-year history. In those 24 games, Atlanta holds a 10-14 record with nearly half of those wins coming during this past decade.
After missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2015, the Falcons are focused on making a return trip to the postseason in 2019. That’s still a long path ahead before the team can accomplish that goal, however, so let’s take some time to reflect back on the success this organization has had in elimination games.
Here is a totally subjective ranking of the Falcons’ 10 postseason wins.
10. Jan. 9, 1999 (Divisional round) – Falcons (20) vs. 49ers (18)
The Falcons began their march towards Super Bowl XXXIII with a 20-18 victory against the San Francisco 49ers, who had finished the 1998 season with an impressive 12-4 record and earned the No. 2 spot in the NFC West behind Atlanta. Thanks to a pair of Jamal Anderson touchdown runs, the Falcons jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first half, and they held off a late San Francisco run to secure the win. Anderson was the offensive player of the game for the Falcons, rushing for 113 yards and two scores on 29 carries, and William White made an impact defensively with two picks.
9. Jan. 6, 2018 (Wild Card round) – Falcons (26) at Rams (13)
Atlanta’s most recent playoff victory feels like it should be higher on this list, but the team’s 26-13 road win against the Rams didn’t carry much drama. The most notable aspect of this victory was the Falcons’ defense, which held the league’s top scoring offense to just 13 points, including only three in the second half. Matt Bryant was busy in Los Angeles, making four field goals, including two from more than 50 yards away.
8. Jan. 14, 2017 (Divisional round) – Falcons (36) vs. Seahawks (20)
Despite playing on opposite ends of the country, the Falcons and Seahawks have developed a little bit of a rivalry over the past decade. Of course the connection with Dan Quinn is obvious, but these two teams have played some competitive football games in recent years. This was not one of them. Intent on avenging an early-season loss to the Seahawks that ended with a controversial no-call on what looked to be pass interference against Julio Jones, the Falcons’ offense clicked into gear just before halftime and a 14-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Tevin Coleman gave Atlanta a 19-10 lead after two quarters. The Falcons kept it going from there, eventually rolling to a 36-13 lead late in the fourth quarter. Ryan was especially impressive in this game, completing 70 percent of his passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns.
7. Dec. 24, 1978 (Divisional round) – Falcons (14) vs. Eagles (13)
In their first ever postseason appearance, the Falcons earned a victory that seemed unlikely for the first three quarters of action. Atlanta entered the fourth quarter trailing the Eagles 13-0, but the Falcons had earned four wins that season in the final 10 seconds of play and were a team prone to late-game heroics. Steve Bartkowski delivered again in the playoffs, tossing two touchdown passes in the final five minutes, including a 37-yarder to receiver Wallace Francis that would prove to be the game-winner. Philadelphia had an opportunity to walk out of Fulton County Stadium with a victory, but Mike Michel’s 34-yard field goal attempt with 13 seconds remaining sailed just right.
6. Jan. 15, 2005 (Divisional round) – Falcons (47) vs. Rams (17)
Everything seemed to go right for the Falcons in front of a raucous Georgia Dome crowd. Atlanta smashed the remnants of The Greatest Show on Turf in every conceivable way, scoring in all three phases of the game. Atlanta’s run game led the way in this rout, and the Falcons combined for 327 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Michael Vick gained 119 yards on just eight carries, and Warrick Dunn paced everyone with 142 yards and two touchdowns on 17 rush attempts. The Falcons’ defense was also lights out in the victory, limiting the Rams to just 77 yards on the ground and earning a safety early in the fourth quarter. Return man Allen Rossum helped give the Falcons a cushion late in the second quarter with a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown. This remains the largest margin of victory for the Falcons in the postseason and it was the most comfortable win on this list.
5 Jan. 13, 2013 (Divisional round) – Falcons (30) vs. Seahawks (28)
The win that finally got the playoff monkey off Matt Ryan’s back. Ryan had led the Falcons to three playoff appearances in his first four NFL seasons, but Atlanta was 0-3 in the postseason during that run which led people to question whether he could get it done when it mattered most. In this playoff classic, Ryan answered that question emphatically, completing 68 percent of his passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns. Critically, Ryan stepped up when it mattered the most, leading Atlanta on a final drive with just 25 seconds remaining to set up Matt Bryant’s game-winning 49-yard field goal. This game ended up much closer than people expected after the Falcons jumped out to a 20-0 lead at halftime, but Ryan and Bryant proved to be clutch once again. Notably, this was also the first playoff win of Tony Gonzalez’s illustrious career.
4. Dec. 28, 1991 (Wild Card round) – Falcons (27) at Saints (20)
After making the playoffs as a wild card team, Atlanta’s first matchup was on the road against its hated rival. New Orleans jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, but the Falcons rallied in the second quarter and ultimately went into halftime down 13-10. In the second half, Atlanta took over. A 20-yard touchdown pass to Michael Haynes in the third quarter gave the Falcons their first lead of the day, but the two teams found themselves tied at 20, apiece late in the fourth quarter. With under three minutes remaining in the game, Haynes, a New Orleans native, broke free down the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown catch that left the Superdome in silence. Haynes was the player of the game for Atlanta, reeling in six catches for 144 yards and the pair of scores.
3. Jan. 22, 2017 (Conference championship) – Falcons (44) vs. Packers (21)
This conference championship win is fun to think back on, but there was real anxiety among the fan base heading into it. Despite the Falcons’ stellar performance throughout the second half of the 2016 season, there was a lot of debate about whether Atlanta would be better off traveling to Dallas than staying home and facing Aaron Rodgers, who had one of the all-time playoff performances in the Georgia Dome during the 2010 postseason. That anxiety proved to be way overblown, however, as the Falcons scored 31 straight points to start the game and held a 44-15 lead in the fourth quarter. Julio Jones and Matt Ryan were virtually unstoppable in this win. Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns while Jones caught nine passes for 180 yards and a pair of scores. This was a victory that sent the Falcons to their second Super Bowl and sent the Georgia Dome off in style.
2. Jan 4, 2003 (Wild Card round) – Falcons (27) at Packers (7)
The only reason this game is ranked ahead of the Falcons earning their second ever Super Bowl berth is the historical implications. The Green Bay Packers were a perfect 13-0 in playoff games at Lambeau Field since the NFL began postseason play in 1933. On top of that, the Packers were the only team to win every single home game during the 2002 season. None of that stopped Michael Vick and the Falcons from coming into a wintery Lambeau wonderland and kicking the Packers out of the playoffs. Atlanta shutout Green Bay in the first half, building a 24-0 lead heading into halftime, and the Falcons continued that level of play in the second half, surrendering just one touchdown. Vick threw for 117 yards and a touchdown while also gaining 64 yards on 10 carries. His improvisational skills proved too much for a Packers defense that was nearly a top-10 unit that season. The Falcons’ defense, meanwhile, frustrated the Packers. Keion Carpenter picked off Brett Favre twice, and Atlanta ultimately secured five turnovers during the historic upset.
1. Jan 17, 1999 (Conference championship) – Falcons (30) at Vikings (27)
There are so many reasons that this game deserves to be No. 1 on this list. Not only did it give the Falcons their first trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history but it was a victory earned against one of the toughest teams in recent NFL memory. The Vikings entered this game an overwhelming favorite against the Falcons. They were the league’s top-scoring offense and boasted the No. 6 scoring defense as well. Minnesota’s lone regular season loss in 1998 came by just three points on the road against Tampa Bay, and the Vikings had an average margin of victory of 16 points. Despite all of that, the Falcons went toe-to-toe against the Vikings in Minnesota.
Atlanta endured a 20-point run from the Vikings in the first half before a 14-yard touchdown pass from Chris Chandler to Terance Mathis made it a 20-14 game heading into halftime. In the second half, the two teams traded points before Chandler again connected with Mathis on a 16-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 27 with under a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. That game-tying touchdown pass came a series after Vikings kicker Gary Anderson missed a 38-yarder that would have likely put the game away. In overtime, it was Falcons kicker Morten Andersen who did just that, ending the game with his own 38-yard kick and sealing one of the most shocking upsets in postseason history.