Watching QB Matt Ryan toss four touchdowns in leading Atlanta to a big win against Philadelphia last Sunday night got me thinking. I wondered if most Falcons fans could name the player who holds the team record for passing touchdowns in a single game.
Ironically, it happened at Tampa Bay in the 1990's.
It wasn't Chris Miller or Jeff George. Need more hints? All right then, let's set the scene.
It was a sunny day in late December and the "Old Sombrero" (as ESPN's Chris Berman coined it) was only partially filled as just 39,056 fans made their way through the turnstiles. After starting out the season promising with a 3-1 record, the Buccaneers lost eight of nine games and limped down the stretch as the NFC West Division Birds came calling.
A pair of Falcons wideouts, Michael Haynes (8 yards) and Andre Rison (20 yards), hauled in scoring passes in the first half to stake the Birds to a close 14-7 lead. A dialed-in Atlanta signal-caller would shred Tampa's defense in the second half to blow the game wide open.
On their first possession of the final half, the Falcons marched 68 yards on just six plays, culminating in a 38 yard touchdown grab by WR Michael Pritchard.
The next time Atlanta touched the ball late in the third quarter, its quick strike offense torched the Tampa secondary for a 60 yard scoring play as Haynes was on the receiving end once again and the Birds were ahead 28-7.
This red-hot Falcons quarterback would connect one more time on the day. Newly inducted member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Deion Sanders lined up on offense and got free down the right sideline on a fly pattern, blazing by the Bucs en route to his first NFL touchdown as a receiver from 37 yards out for the final points in a 35-7 victory.
The quarterback in question that day was... Wade Wilson.
Wilson played his first 11 seasons in Minnesota (throwing for over 12,000 yards in 76 starts) and was a late pick-up that year after being let go by the Vikings. After starter Chris Miller was lost for the season with a knee injury in Week 9, Wilson was starting in place of an ineffective Billy Joe Tolliver for the first time. Needless to say, Wilson thrived in the team's "Red Gun" pass-first attack of offensive coordinator June Jones.
On the day, Wilson only missed four passes in the first half (12-16) and three throws in the second half (7-10) for a scorching 19 of 26 effort for 324 yards and his club record of five touchdowns.
Wilson would go on to play just two more games for the club in his only season in a Falcons uniform. But in his lone appearance against Tampa Bay on December 13, 1992, Wilson made it a quite memorable and record breaking day.