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Time Machine: The Beginning of the I-85 Rivalry


This aptly-named, "I-85 Rivalry", as it was first dubbed when both teams were placed in the same NFC South Division in 2001, has always seen its share of wild games.

One of those came on a crisp, October day in 1998 when the Falcons set an NFL record and a Georgia Dome mark at the expense of the Panthers.

Bird's rookie Tim Dwight set the early tempo by breaking free with the opening kickoff and scampering 93 yards for a touchdown.

After taking a 17-3 halftime lead, Atlanta stormed out of the locker room and scored on a short touchdown run by FB Bob Christian on the opening possession. Little did "Sister" Christian know that his run would be the impetus for an impending new record.

Carolina fumbled on its first play of their next drive and the Birds were in business at the Panthers 26-yard line.

On the very first play, TE O.J. Santiago hauled in a 26-yard touchdown strike to put the Falcons on top 31-3. On their next offensive possession, Carolina WR Muhsin Muhammad fumbled after making a catch and Atlanta S William White scooped up the loose ball and rambled 18-yards into the record books for another touchdown.

Atlanta scored three touchdowns in just 48 seconds, the fastest in NFL history since the 1970 merger.

The Falcons' domination on the day included six forced turnovers, a 37:10 to 22:50 advantage in time of possession and 130 rushing yards to the Panthers' 57.

When it was all over, the scoreboard read Atlanta 51 and Carolina 23.

The 51 points were the second-most scored in team history (to the 62 against New Orleans in 1973) and the most ever produced in the Georgia Dome.

Is there another wild game on tap on Sunday between these two division combatants on another October day? If past history is any barometer, it would be smart not leave your seat for a minute.

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