The elites have been uncovered, now the greatest plays in franchise history jockey against each other for a spot in the Final Four.
Thank you for your patience. We’re still in the middle of trying to decide what the greatest moment in Atlanta Falcons history is, determined completely by your votes and suggestions. We left off at the Sweet 16 before this series went on a month long hiatus due to my going on vacation.
Let’s get back to it with the final eight, today. There hasn’t been a single low seeded underdog which is still standing — in fact, not a single double digit seeded moment even made it to the Sweet 16. Every play still standing was a 4-seed or above, the proverbial favorites in most matchups.
While the stunning Cinderella run is missing from this particular bracket, the matchups which remain promise to be absolutely explosive.
As always, this is a head to head format with the moment tallying the most votes going through. Today, a spot in the Final Four is on the line.
1) Julio Jones 73-yard dagger receiving touchdown vs. Packers in NFC Championship Game (2016)
3) Matt Ryan is drafted by the Falcons (2008)
Julio Jones’ legendary catch and run against the Packers in front of a ballistic Georgia Dome to all but secure a spot in Super Bowl 51 has cruised at this point, winning 75%, 75% and then 85% of the vote in its first three matchups, the latter two of which both came in 2004.
Julio Jones’ massive touchdown against the Packers would be the overall 1-seed in this tournament as it generated more votes in the seeding phase than any other play in this bracket This was the back breaking score in the 2016 NFC Championship Game, all but clinching Atlanta’s trip to Super Bowl 51, as Julio blew the roof off the Georgia Dome by completely annihilating Ladarius Gunter in coverage.
It’s not at all surprising to see the moment that Matt Ryan became an Atlanta Falcon not only still standing, but has absolutely thrived in this tournament thus far. Last round, it dispatch one legendary Julio Jones catch in the playoffs by winning 59% of the vote. Let’s see how it fares against another.
The Falcons started the most successful era in team history in 2008, and the first move in transitioning into that era was the selection of Matt Ryan with the 3rd overall selection in the draft. After Miami and the Rams passed on the Boston College product, the Falcons opted to make him their next franchise quarterback and never looked back. Ryan has since eviscerated every single team passing record, has been the undisputed face of the franchise and will one day be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
4) Matt Ryan’s first professional pass is a 62-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins (2008)
2) Matt Ryan puts together a scoring drive in 6 seconds to come back against Chicago (2008)
(Please view on Youtube)
This is incredibly fun and interesting — this matchup features two separate Matt Ryan to Michael Jenkins passes, which happened just a handful of weeks apart, both in Ryan’s rookie season of 2008. Ryan’s legendary first career pass has so far dispatched two memorable older moments and then beat the Ryan pass to Roddy White from the 1 in 2012 to get to this point.
Has anyone ever made a first impression quite like Matt Ryan in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions in 2008? The hotly debated 3rd overall selection out of Boston College silenced the doubters briefly when he dropped back and threw what ended up being a 62-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins on his first career throw in the NFL. Ryan would of course prove his worth as the 3rd pick, and this will always be remembered as one of those seminal moments in his career.
Another Ryan to Jenkins connection in 2008, the fantastic finish against the Bears also beat a memorable older moment in team history in Round 2 before beating another memorable Matt Ryan pass — the game winning touchdown to Mohamed Sanu against the Packers in 2016 — to make it here.
You can’t describe what the “It Factor” is in words, you kind of just know it when you see it, and the NFL saw that Matt Ryan had “It” as early as Week 6 of his rookie season. Down 20-19 against the Chicago Bears, with 6 seconds remaining and the ball on his own 44-yard-line, Ryan launched a pristine sideline pass, while getting leveled, to Michael Jenkins 26 yards down the field with one second to spare (shoutout to Jenkins for the wonderful toe tap catch as well). That set up the game-winning field goal which was nailed by Jason Elam, and it demonstrated to Falcons fans that they had something special with the rookie out of Boston College.
4) Morten Andersen kicks game-winning FG to beat the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game (1998)
(Please view on Youtube)
2) Deion Jones game-winning interception in the end zone against the Saints on TNF (2017)
The greatest 4 seed in the history of brackets has been utterly dominant. After winning 94% of the vote in each of its first two matchups, Morten Andersen’s kick had an easy victory against the incredible playoff win in Green Bay, last round. I did not think that any play could generate 74% of the vote against the moment which solidified Mike Vick’s legend, but that’s just a testament to how formidable Andersen’s kick is.
Morten Andersen’s kick is probably the strongest 4-seed you’ll ever see in any bracket. The 1998 Falcons were given next to no chance of beating the super-powered 15-1 Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. Those Vikings felt like a team whose name was ready to be pre-engraved on the Super Bowl trophy, but titles aren’t won on paper. Gary Anderson, Minnesota’s All-Pro kicker who hadn’t missed a single kick all year, missed a 38-yard field goal which would have put the game away. Atlanta responded with a Terrance Mathis touchdown to tie it, before Morten Andersen didn’t miss on his kick in overtime, giving the Birds their first ever Super Bowl appearance, and haunting the nightmares of Vikings fans ever since.
Deion Jones’ game-winning interception against the Saints has disposed of memorable plays by Atlanta’s two best ever wide receivers — Julio Jones and Roddy White — left and right. After winning 67% of the vote against Julio’s catch over Luke Kuechly, Debo’s moment has taken out three different memorable catches, to reach this stage.
The Thursday Night Football matchup between the Falcons and Saints in Week 14 had potential playoff implications, a choke sign from Sean Payton to Devonta Freeman referencing Super Bowl 51 and as much bad blood as there always is when these two teams meet, especially on the national stage. It was a back and forth game where neither team led by more than one possession at any point and which had the stage set for a game-winning Drew Brees touchdown drive to rip out Falcon hearts. Brees led the Saints to the Atlanta 11-yard-line with 1:30 remaining before trying to force a pass into double coverage to Josh Hill (on a verts play) which Deion Jones promptly intercepted in the end zone. Atlanta snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and psychologically crushed the Saints and their fanbase all in one play. And it was seen by the entire country.
1) Matt Bryant kicks game-winning FG against Seattle to put Atlanta into the NFCCG (2012)
(Please view on Youtube)
3) Matt Ryan becomes only player in franchise history to win MVP (2016)
(Please view on Youtube)
Matt Bryant’s greatest kick as a Falcon has had a comfortable time as a robust #1 seed. Opposing moments have yet to crack 40% of the vote over the first three rounds, with the 5-interception game against Drew Brees in 2012 being the latest victim to fall against Bryant’s right leg.
The 2012 Divisional Round game against the Seahawks carried a lot of weight for the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan tandem, who were 0-3 in the playoffs previously. Controlling everything throughout most of the afternoon, the Falcons led 27-7 going into the 4th quarter before collapsing and allowing 21 unanswered points. In the most important drive of his career up to that point, Ryan completed two clutch passes to Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez to get into field goal range before Matt Bryant nailed a 49-yard kick to send the Falcons into the NFC Championship Game and the Georgia Dome into delirium
Speaking of dominating, Ryan’s MVP season has yet to allow any opposing play to tally even 30% of the vote thus far. Even Julio Jones’ greatest ever statistical game — 300 yards against the Carolina Panthers in 2016 — lost by a blowout 74%-26% margin.
Following some struggles in 2015, something just clicked for Matt Ryan within Kyle Shanahan’s offensive scheme. After a rough Week 1, everything started humming along for Atlanta’s offense, which scored the most points per game in the NFL in 2016 and the 9th-most in NFL history up to that point. Ryan threw for 4,944 passing yards (second in the NFL), 38 passing touchdowns (second in the NFL), had a league-high 117.1 passer rating and had 9.3 yards per passing attempt, which is the highest mark in NFL history among QBs with a minimum of 400 attempts. The result — he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, the first and only Falcon to ever achieve that feat.
With these being the late stages, voting will be open for a full week. The winners of these matchups will meet in the Final Four.