In their 51 seasons, the Atlanta Falcons have had the third-worst record in the NFL – with only Arizona and Tampa Bay having worse records. They face the New England Patriots, who have had the fifth best NFL win percentage as a franchise, in Super Bowl LI.
In Part 1, we cover the first two and half decades of the franchise (1966-1989) where they amassed a 129-218-5 (.366) record and a 1-3 playoff record. They ended the 1980’s with their seventh straight losing season and had four wins or less for the 11th time in 24 years.
In Part 2, we cover the 1990’s where the Falcons had only three winning seasons but did make it to Super Bowl XXXIII.
In Part 3, we cover the Falcons in this new century where they have had their best stretch yet and managed to have consecutive winning seasons for the first time ever. The Falcons have been 140-131-1 (.515) and had a 5-6 playoff record that includes their second trip to the Super Bowl. In contrast, the Patriots have been 201-71 (.739) and will be playing in their 9th Super Bowl (and 7th this century).
The success of the Falcons during this era is attributable to some key player acquisitions including Michael Vick, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. It also coincides with an ownership change. Arthur Blank purchased the team in 2002 from Rankin Smith, the son of the team founder.
In 2001, the Falcons traded for the number one draft pick and selected Virginia Tech sophomore quarterback Michael Vick. That year, Vick started only two games and was a backup to Chris Chandler. The Falcons went 7-9 for their third straight losing season.
Vick took over in 2002. He led the team to the playoffs in 2002 where they shocked the Green Bay Packers 27-7 for their first playoff loss at Lambeau Field.
The Falcons fell flat the next week, however, losing 20-6 at Philadelphia.
Vick missed most of 2003 to injury, but he and the Falcons roared back in 2004 with an 11-5 record that earned them their third division title. After crushing the St. Louis Rams 47-17 at home, the Falcons again fell short in Philadelphia in their second NFC Championship Game 27-10.
Vick became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 2006, but the Falcons still finished 7-9. That was Vick’s final season with Atlanta, as he was suspended for two seasons and served 23-months in prison after pleading guilty to dog fighting charges.
The Vick-less 2007 season was so bad that rookie coach Bobby Petrino resigned without notice after a 3-10 start to accept a position at Arkansas.
In 2008, the Falcons promoted Rich McKay (son of legendary coach John McKay) to President and named the New England Patriots’ chief scout – Thomas Dimitroff as General Manager. Dimitroff has added several other Patriot alums to the front office and coaching staff including Assistant General Manager Scott Pioli and Director of Pro Personnel Joel Collier
That year the Falcons drafted Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan with the third pick in the draft. Ryan was Offensive Rookie of the Year and led the Falcons to an 11-5 record. It was the first of five straight winning seasons – their first streak ever.
In 2008, the Falcons lost the Wild Card Game to the Arizona Cardinals 30-24.
In 2010, the Falcons were 13-3 en route to their 4th division title but were crushed by the Packers 48-21 in the Georgia Dome in the divisional playoff.
In 2011, the Falcons traded to get Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones with the sixth pick. They went 10-6 but lost to the New York Giants 24-2 in the Wild Card game.
In 2012, Ryan led the Falcons to their 5th division title with a 13-3 record. The Falcons won their first playoff game under Ryan, and their first since 2004, beating Seattle 30-28 after answering the Seahawks go-ahead score with 31 seconds left.
In the NFC Championship, however, the Falcons blew a 17-0 lead to lose to the 49ers 28-24 in the biggest comeback in NFC Championship history.
The Falcons would miss the playoffs the next two seasons. In 2015, they brought in coach Dan Quinn who led the team to a 5-0 start. The team struggled the rest of the season, finishing 8-8 but not before ending Carolina’s perfect season.
In 2016, the Falcons started off 4-1, but then sputtered going 3-4 in a mid-season slump. Since then they have won six straight, outscoring their opponents by an average of 39.0-19.3. This included playoff wins over Seattle (36-20) and Green Bay (44-21).
Matt Ryan has led the NFL in Passer Rating, while Julio Jones has led the league in receiving yards per game.
Falcons v Patriots
The Falcons are 6-7 against the Patriots, but are 0-4 against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Their last matchup was in September 2013 when the Patriots won 30-23 at the Georgia Dome.
|Single Season||Career #1||Career #2|
|Coaching Wins|| Dan Reeves
| Mike Smith
| Dan Reeves
|Points||Off Rank||Def Rank|
|Year||W||L||T||Div. Finish||Playoffs||PF||PA||Coaches||Pts||Yds||Pts||Yds||out of|
|2016||11||5||0||1st of 4||540||406||Quinn||1||2||27||25||32|
|2015||8||8||0||2nd of 4||339||345||Quinn||21||7||14||16||32|
|2014||6||10||0||3rd of 4||381||417||Smith||12||8||27||32||32|
|2013||4||12||0||3rd of 4||353||443||Smith||20||14||27||27||32|
|2012||13||3||0||1st of 4||Lost Conf||419||299||Smith||7||8||5||24||32|
|2011||10||6||0||2nd of 4||Lost WC||402||350||Smith||7||10||18||12||32|
|2010||13||3||0||1st of 4||Lost Div||414||288||Smith||5||16||5||16||32|
|2009||9||7||0||2nd of 4||363||325||Smith||13||16||14||21||32|
|2008||11||5||0||2nd of 4||Lost WC||391||325||Smith||10||6||11||24||32|
|2007||4||12||0||4th of 4||259||414||Petrino,Thomas||29||23||29||29||32|
|2006||7||9||0||3rd of 4||292||328||Mora||25||12||15||22||32|
|2005||8||8||0||3rd of 4||351||341||Mora||14||12||18||22||32|
|2004||11||5||0||1st of 4||Lost Conf||340||337||Mora||16||20||14||14||32|
|2003||5||11||0||4th of 4||299||422||Reeves,Phillips||20||29||30||32||32|
|2002||9||6||1||2nd of 4||Lost Div||402||314||Reeves||5||14||8||19||32|
|2001||7||9||0||4th of 5||291||377||Reeves||23||15||24||30||31|
|2000||4||12||0||5th of 5||252||413||Reeves||27||30||26||25||31|