The Falcons are heading to New Orleans this weekend for an all-important NFC South matchup with the Saints. Relive the bitter rivalry in our Throwback Thursday gallery.
With so much on the line this weekend in New Orleans, this game has a playoff feel to it. This yearly "Battle of the Bayou" reminds me of the intense 1991 playoff contest between these two arch rivals.
Atlanta traveled to New Orleans on December 28, 1991 as a Wild Card team with a 10-6 record after failing to win the Division on the last day of the regular season, falling to the Cowboys 31-27 in Dallas. In contrast, the Saints blew out the Phoenix Cardinals 27-3 to capture the NFC West with an 11-5 record and the ability to host a postseason game.
Jerry Glanville's "Back in Black" crew rolled into the playoffs on the heels of a five-game winning streak at the end of the season with plenty of swagger. Five weeks earlier, the Birds marched into New Orleans and defeated the Saints 23-20 in overtime.
The Saints jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter on a 26-yard touchdown pass from QB Bobby Hebert and a 45-yard field goal by K Morten Andersen.
But the Falcons stormed back.
WR Andre Rison started the scoring off for the Birds by snagging a 24-yard pass from QB Chris Miller. K Norm Johnson tied it with a 44-yard field goal and both teams went to their respective locker rooms knotted at halftime.
The Saints answered to start the crucial second half with a 35-yard field goal by Andersen.
With the pressure mounting on the Falcons, it was time for New Orleans native Michael Haynes to take center stage in his hometown.
Even though he caught a solid four catches for 63 yards in the first half, Haynes saved his best for when it mattered the most; in crunch time.
He capped a strong 9-play, 84-yard drive with a spectacular over-the-shoulder 20-yard touchdown to help the Falcons take the lead for the first time.
But the Saints countered with a 19-play, 80-yard trek of their own which was culminated with a RB Dalton Hilliard one-yard plunge to re-take the lead 20-17.
Typical of this see-saw battle between these two combatants, the Birds clawed back to tie the game with a 36-yard field goal with 6:27 remaining.
With 4:34 left on the clock, the Falcons got the ball back and started a drive at their own 20-yard line determined to defeat their bitter rivals on their own home turf.
On second down and nine at the 39, Miller dropped back and threw a dart to the right sideline to Haynes who was running a simple hitch pattern looking for a first down.
But Haynes slipped by one cornerback, then "Flash" turned on the afterburners and outraced the Saints secondary down the sideline running into the Falcons history book on his way for a memorable 61-yard touchdown jaunt.
Atlanta's defense held New Orleans and CB Tim McKyer sealed the win and the Falcons historic first ever road playoff victory with an interception with 1:10 remaining for a 27-20 win, sending the Birds to the Divisional round at Washington, and breaking the hearts of Saints fans once again.
Haynes finished his clutch performance with six receptions for 144 yards and forever etched his name in the minds of Falcons fans for his postseason glory.
This intense, Southern confrontation has been called many things over the years since it began in 1967. Some can be repeated, and some cannot.
With so much riding on the outcome, this Sunday's emotional contest can simply be called…"The Brawl For It All."