Atlanta Falcons, 4-0 for third time, trying to finish like ‘04 rather than ‘86

18 Sep 1988: Fullback Gerald Riggs of the Atlanta Falcons runs with the ball during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. The Falcons won the game 34-17.18 Sep 1988: Fullback Gerald Riggs of the Atlanta Falcons runs with the ball during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. The Falcons won the game 34-17. (Getty Images)

18 Sep 1988: Fullback Gerald Riggs of the Atlanta Falcons runs with the ball during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. The Falcons won the game 34-17.18 Sep 1988: Fullback Gerald Riggs of the Atlanta Falcons runs with the ball during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. The Falcons won the game 34-17. (Getty Images)

The first time the Falcons ever started a season 4-0 they ended up succumbing to injuries and, perhaps, their own doubts about whether they really were that good.

The second time the Falcons were perfect through four games they ended up winning the NFC South and advancing to the NFC championship game.

The Falcons, 4-0 for just the third time in franchise history, are looking to finish more like 2004 than 1986.

“They have a very, very good chance,” said Gerald Riggs, the Pro Bowl running back on the 1986 Falcons team. “Everybody can look to everything in the regular season, but the proof is what happens in the postseason. They should have no issue getting in the postseason.”

That’s the way it appears with the Falcons already three games ahead of Tampa Bay and Carolina and four games clear of the Saints. Atlanta already defeated Carolina, owns two road victories and boasts the No. 3 scoring offense in the league.

But, as the 1986 Falcons discovered, a promising season can unravel fast.

Expectations were low for the Falcons in 1986. They had posted back-to-back 4-12 seasons under coach Dan Henning and managed just three winning seasons since starting play in 1966 (not counting the strike-shortened 1982 season) .

The Falcons opened the season with a victory at New Orleans but there still were about 10,000 empty seats at Fulton County Stadium when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals the next week. The perception of the Falcons changed after they won at Dallas in Week 3.

The Falcons were greeted by fans at the airport when they returned to Atlanta.

“They estimated there were a couple thousand fans in the concourse when we got off the plane,” said David Archer, Atlanta’s starting quarterback in 1986. “They were lined up in the concourse and we were high-fiving fans. It really was a great scene.”

After Atlanta won in overtime at Tampa Bay in Week 4, Fulton County Stadium was nearly full for the next week’s game against the Eagles. The Falcons’ streak ended with a 16-0 loss to the Eagles and new coach Buddy Ryan’s famed “46″ defense.

But Atlanta recovered to defeat the Los Angeles Rams at home the next week and rallied to forge a tie at San Francisco to stand 5-1-1. That was the final high point for the Falcons, who started a five-game losing streak at Los Angeles the next week.

Archer said the team’s depth wasn’t good to begin with and then injuries, including a separated shoulder suffered by Archer in Week 11, took their toll. Archer said the Falcons, who finished 7-8-1, also they didn’t handle the increased expectations well.

“We just kind of lost that momentum,” he said. “We were on a team that didn’t expect to win; we were just hoping to get off to a fast start. I think we got a little bit tight and started trying not to lose.”

By the time the Falcons lost in Week 14 to Indianapolis, which hadn’t won a game until then, Fulton County Stadium was half full and the excitement generated by the hot start had fizzled.

“After we went on the five-game losing streak, I don’t think even the [airport] baggage people came out to meet us,” Riggs said, laughing. “It was, ‘You have the key. Let yourself in.’ But it certainly it was a great time for something to happen in the city. We thought we got some things turned around.”

The 2004 Falcons had higher hopes than the 1984 team but their big season came one year later than expected.

Anticipation was high for the 2003 season after the Falcons became the first team in NFL history to win a playoff game at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field the previous January. Those hopes took a hit when star quarterback Michael Vick suffered a leg fracture during the 2003 preseason and was out for most of the year.

Vick was healthy for the 2004 season but Jim Mora had replaced Dan Reeves as coach.

“Jim Mora thought we could still capture the momentum [from 2002] that we thought was gone,” said Alge Crumpler, Atlanta’s Pro Bowl tight end in 2004. “As the season got going we found out we had something pretty special.”

Atlanta’s 4-0 start included victories at San Francisco, vs. the Rams and Cardinals, and at Carolina. The Falcons lost two of their next three games before another four-game winning streak sent them on their way to an 11-5 record. Atlanta defeated the Rams in the divisional playoffs before losing at Philadelphia in the conference championship game.

Statistically, the 2004 Falcons were mediocre on both sides of the ball and were prone to wild swings in performance, especially on offense. They had six games in which they scored 14 points or less and four games in which they scored 30 points or more.

Crumpler said the 2004 team had “one of the closest-knit locker rooms I ever had” and showed character through adversity.

“We were a little inconsistent, at best, but I felt like there wasn’t a team on our schedule we felt like we couldn’t beat,” Crumpler said. “I think as I watch this year’s team they are more consistent.”

The 2012 Falcons also say they are a close group with good chemistry. Crumpler noted that these Falcons have more offensive talent than the 2004 team, which relied heavily on Vick and Warrick Dunn to churn out rushing yards.

Riggs said, unlike the current Falcons, the 1986 team “didn’t really have all the pieces to make that kind of [championship] run.” Archer said another difference between the current Falcons and both the 1986 and 2004 teams is “they expect to win.”

“You saw against Carolina [on Sunday], they had the ball at the one [on the final drive] and still had a ‘never say die’ attitude,” Archer said.

The Falcons rallied to defeat the Panthers and remain one of three undefeated teams. The Texans are 4-0 for the first time in their short history and the Cardinals last were 4-0 in 1974.

Crumpler said the Falcons shouldn’t take their strong start for granted.

“The longer you play, the more you realize how hard it is to win in this league and appreciate the good things that happen to you,” he said. “Nothing is easy in this league.”

The unit 29th against the run (146.2 yards per game), ninth against the pass (206.8 yards) and it has forced the opposing quarterbacks into a passer rating of 68.7, which is fifth lowest in the NFL.

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65 comments Add your comment

lowdownjj

October 2nd, 2012
6:35 pm

NFC Championship game would be a vast improvement over Ryan/Smith’s current playoff record but I bet the Falcons have their aim higher than that! GO FALCONS!

Singletary

October 2nd, 2012
7:21 pm

Not to sound like the Dos Equis Guy, but “stay healthy, my friends.”

Great Falconi

October 2nd, 2012
7:56 pm

I figure that we longtime Falcon fans are probably owed a Super Bowl victory or six.

Michael M.

October 2nd, 2012
8:19 pm

I am old enough to remember those early days…………….still way, way early but maybe this time is the charm and they can go all the way…………………………………………………………….

falCANS

October 2nd, 2012
8:20 pm

Lol Looooong Overdue!! SuperBowl

Esquire

October 2nd, 2012
8:37 pm

DLed, were you even born in ‘86…………….lol……!!!

Esquire

October 2nd, 2012
8:38 pm

a promising season can unravel fast………………………Can you say Ryder Cup?

just a troll

October 2nd, 2012
8:40 pm

we sure closer to it than dem aints, lololol

Esquire

October 2nd, 2012
8:42 pm

I think we lost William Andrews for the ‘ season……………god, had he been around then……

Esquire

October 2nd, 2012
8:43 pm

whoops, meant to write we lost Andrews for the ‘84 season…………

just a troll

October 2nd, 2012
8:49 pm

troll/trōl/
Noun:
A mythical, cave-dwelling being depicted in folklore as either a giant or a dwarf, typically having a very ugly appearance.
The action of trolling for fish.
Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory,[3] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[4] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

Get it ? Good ! Don’t feed the trolls !

Falcons 4 Real

October 2nd, 2012
8:56 pm

This article brings back a lot of memories. I was amongst the 1000+ at the airport that night and to say it was electric is a huge understatement. I was also at Fulton county when we lost to the previously winless Colts as we looked around at each other wondering what had just happened. ‘86 had the very highest of highs and the lowest of lows. From ‘04 I mainly remember the playoff game running crazy all over the Rams and watching our special teams make Mike Martz look like the idiot he is. So far this season is reminding me of ‘98 when every time we thought things couldn’t possibly get any better they would. We’re only 1/4 of the season through and the tougher part of the schedule is yet ahead but this team is playing with a level of confidence I haven’t seen since that Superbowl team. May the 2012 edition be the one that finally brings home the Lombardi.

jimmyb (PHL for ATL)

October 2nd, 2012
9:30 pm

1986: I still remember driving home from my first GT coop job up north (GM) in dayton, OH, listening to Archer win that fourth game. That was sooo cool, only to have the dreams crushed later in the season.

Up to 2004: DLed – Did you remind Alge about the 3rd Down choke he had up in Philly? That pass could have been caught by anybody in the stadium but AC… Was so glad to see him leave just for that one play. Big mouth, lot of talent, lot of choking when it counted.

2012: Are the wheels about to come off with Grimes, JuliWhos hand (I wore his Jersey to the Jets ame Sunday, but my man is letting us all down so far), and the Nolan D getting exposed last week, and the Iggles coming up end of the month with that pass rush?

Hope not from Up North (PHL) and Down South (PR) !

mrzizzle

October 2nd, 2012
10:17 pm

The Falcons have NEVER been 5-0! Best of luck Birds! Take it to RG3 and the Skins!

Just Sayin

October 2nd, 2012
10:46 pm

(34-46) is the combined record from last season of the 1st 5 teams this season

jimmyb (PHL for ATL)

October 2nd, 2012
10:47 pm

Just got my REdskins Tix. Me and Johnny Boy (my son all you Pansy Aints fans) will be in section 454 on Sunday!

LOL at the Aints

October 2nd, 2012
10:50 pm

I do remember 86, painfull to say the least,, this is a much better team, but this is 26 years later and much has changed. Go Birds!

Falcon James

October 2nd, 2012
10:53 pm

Being hard is what make the game great. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.

By the way, has anyone mentioned today that the Saint are OhFur?

FalconJim

October 2nd, 2012
11:00 pm

Seen every game, since 1966….and I can sense that this team is special….VERY special!!!

I say, barring any key injuries, we win 12 or 13 games, and go deep in the Playoffs.

Can I get a witness?

GO, YOU DIRTY BIRDS!!!!!!!!!

Falcon James

October 2nd, 2012
11:02 pm

Amen Brother Jim!!!

Mora less Petrino

October 2nd, 2012
11:19 pm

This team is better coached, more talented, and has a much better QB. They will not go 16-0, but they should be a strong contender for the NFC Championship game and possibly the SB.

DiamondDaveincali

October 2nd, 2012
11:39 pm

The 2004 Falcons had higher hopes than the 1984 team but their big season came one year later than expected. DLED, didnt you mean the 86 team? confusing me.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

October 3rd, 2012
12:05 am

Esquire — This is MC writing this article. And heck yes. I was two years out of college in 86.

DR. FALCON

October 3rd, 2012
12:41 am

IT’S NOT HOW YOU START, IT’S HOW YOU FINISH! IT’S JUST THE 1ST QTR., OF THE SEASON! BUT, I’LL TAKE IT! REMEMBER, THE BILLS STARTED 6-0, LAST SEASON, BEFORE FADING! NOW, WE ARE A MUCH BETTER TEAM THAN BUFFALO! BUT WE NOW FACE THE BEST ATHLETE AT THE QB POSITION, IN R.G. III. AND, HE’S ONLY A ROOKIE!

Adogg36

October 3rd, 2012
1:30 am

Adogg36

October 3rd, 2012
1:32 am

Hello falcon world

old man

October 3rd, 2012
7:11 am

This morning, Yahoo Power Rankings, Falcons #1. Wow!

Just remember, we will lose a game somewhere this season. A loss this Sunday is not the end of the world.

old man

October 3rd, 2012
7:13 am

Hard to believe the Texans are not #1.

Ackshun

October 3rd, 2012
7:26 am

@ Old Man – The Texans and Cardinals have a 4-0 record but the wins don’t include 3 teams favored to go to the playoffs this year

D

October 3rd, 2012
8:36 am

Thanks for the memory.I was fresh out of college living in Buckhead in 86. It was great. Hawks were great around then, too. Go Falcons.

ctfalconsfan

October 3rd, 2012
8:40 am

Dr Falcon you are very correct!!! I like being 4-0 but I’d rather be 4-0 in the month of DEC heading into the play-offs with momentum..

How many times have we seen in recent years the hot wild card team that had to fight hard just to make the play-offs roll over the favored/home team? Especially when the #1 and #2 seeds usually rest starters then have a bye week…

May God continue to bless the Atlanta Falcons!

ctfalconsfan

October 3rd, 2012
8:51 am

P.S. Love that red helmet!!

Red Helmet and black jersey’s are the way to go!
Like the black pants on the road..

Mike is Back

October 3rd, 2012
8:54 am

Dled, it was great to get some ole school BIRDS perspective of the current team…I agree with their assessment…this team more talented then both those team…you always start to worry…when people like ESPN anoint you the BEST of anything…I hope the BIRDS can find a way to stay humble…they control their own destiny.

RISE UP BIRDS…KEEP IT GOING…LET’S GO…LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just Sayin

October 3rd, 2012
9:03 am

@Ackshun

None of Altanta’s first 5 opponents finished with a winning record last season.

Just sayin…..

The Big Fat Blogger

October 3rd, 2012
9:07 am

86? I am still having nightmares over that 1980 season, the Falcons were the “Best Team” that year!!!!

Grape Nuts are neither grapes or nuts

October 3rd, 2012
9:22 am

How messed up is your life to drive to the airport yo greet a team that won 3 games, but not go to the games themselves?

North FLA Falcon

October 3rd, 2012
9:22 am

The best Falcons team of all was in 1980, because we had a nasty hard hitting DEFENSE to go along with a very high powered offense.

Dr. Warren

October 3rd, 2012
9:43 am

I was at that January 1981 heart-breaker versus Dallas, and yes, those Falcons should have gone to the Super Bowl instead of the Eagles. But let’s not kid ourselves: the ‘98 Super Bowl team was the best Falcons squad ever, by far, and until we get there again, it always will be.

Early Falcon Fan

October 3rd, 2012
10:01 am

I was at the airport that nite after the Falcons beat Dallas. The whole crowd was chanting “Herschel Who???!!!@” I put my hand out to shake Jeff Van Note’s hand, and he acted like he did not want to….

Ray

October 3rd, 2012
10:05 am

Right now until a little later in the season Falcons are #3 for me Texas and 49ers are ahead. Not saying Falcons can’t beat these guys, but as of right now this is where they are.

GATiger

October 3rd, 2012
10:14 am

(To the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In”

Oh well the Saints
Are 0 and 4
Oh yes the Saints are 0 and 4
Meanwhile the Falcons are undefeated
But the Saints are 0 and 4

The Bucs have won
One single game
The Bucs have won one single game
And still the Falcons are undefeated
And the Saints are 0 and 4

The Panthers too
Have just one win
The Panthers only have one win
And that win was against New Orleans
And the Saints are 0 and 4.

Sing it with me, ladies!

single white dove

October 3rd, 2012
10:26 am

“The Falcons rallied to defeat the Panthers and remain one of three undefeated teams. The Texans are 4-0 for the first time in their short history and the Cardinals last were 4-0 in 1974.”

What the hell?

Michael M.

October 3rd, 2012
10:33 am

you know whats really funny is coming up this week………………here the Caints are with their fans bragging about what the Caints was going to do before the Season started and they are comfortably protecting the bottom of the cellar with the 0 – 4 record………………hehehe………………come Sunday they take on the 3 – 1 chargers and probably with that crummy defense be losing again …………………….the Saints just caint win this year and paid 100 million for Drew Sleeze………………………………may just be 0 – 5 after this weekend………………………..hahahahahehehehehe………..

Mikey

October 3rd, 2012
10:41 am

This is a stronger team than Atlanta has ever seen. The NFL is tough but this team is prepared. They have strong players across the board with quality depth at every position (we even upgraded our QBs this season). They have the best coaching staff in football right now and they are continuing to improve every week. I don’t say this because they won 4 in a row. I say it because you can see it on the team. They are prepared to win in the NFL and that is what it takes.

3rd down efficiency is overrated

October 3rd, 2012
10:48 am

AJC editors–you’ll want to correct your puncutation in that headline. When you abbreviate a year, you use an apostrophe, not a left single quotation mark.

I remember the ‘86 Falcons–I was 14 and thrilled with their fast start. In fact I still remember Terrance Stamp (I think?) with a long run in that 10-10 tie at San Francisco. And of course the Dallas game was incredible. Only wish they had been able to finish it…loved that team.

Ray

October 3rd, 2012
10:49 am

The only team we’ve faced so far this season that is what I’d call sorry was Kansas City.

Carolina although not built like a Green Bay or anyone like that is actually not as bad as some people make them out to be same goes for Chargers and Broncos.

You can say 34-46 with these 5 teams all day and night, but NYG went 9-7 went to the superbowl
looking back at their last season they loss to teams their not suppose to like Redskins and Panthers.

Long story short every year is different.

3rd down efficiency is overrated

October 3rd, 2012
10:51 am

LOL-I meant Slyvester Stamps, not Terrance Stamp, the actor who played General Zod.

Michael M.

October 3rd, 2012
10:52 am

Oh I am sorry……….I baited the troll but sometimes you can’t help it when it is so good……………..you sure are right about this being a good Team……………..it was an offensive coordinator or defensive coordinators dream package to be able to come into Atlanta and have all the pieces to the puzzle on the Roster and all they had to do was put it all together correctly…………………………………..
It takes a few years to build a Team and organize it and Team Owner Blank and TD should get a little praise for what they have been able to accomplish…………………………

Uncle Rico

October 3rd, 2012
11:02 am

My Biggest Falcon Hi-Lights [or Low-Lights...] from over the years:
* 1973- Falcons upset Vikings 20-14 on MNF
* 1978- Falcons upset Rams 15-7 on MNF
* 1978 – Beat Eagles in playoff game
* 1978 – Lost to Cowboys, but played good game
* 1980 – Won NFC West
* 1981 – Lost to Cowboys in Divisional Playoff Game after leading 27-17 in 4th qtr
* 1999 – Of course – Super Bowl loss to Broncos [if only Robinson could have waited one more night!]
Those were the days when ATL did not have the foundation for success that it now enjoys [see A.Blank] and it made the wins they had seem all the more improbable….

3rd down efficiency is overrated

October 3rd, 2012
11:10 am

That Monday night game vs. the Rams in ‘78–that was the game that Tim Mazzetti hit 5 FGs, right? I wasn’t a fan yet (only 6 yrs old then) but remember hearing about that game!

Oddly, 1983 had some highlights (for a 7-9 season): the Hail Mary vs. the 49ers, the crazy game vs. the Packers (w/ the two INTs returned for TDs, one in OT), and the comeback @ NY Jets (led by Billy “White Shoes” Johnson). And it was the last year that we had a healthy Andrews and Riggs in the backfield…

old man

October 3rd, 2012
11:11 am

‘Skins are a 31/34 pass/rush per game ratio. Falcons are 37/24 pass/rush per game ratio. That’s a pass percentage of 48% versus 61%. So they run, we pass. We defend the pass better, they defend the run better.

Both teams have very good turnover ratios, but RGIII fumbles A LOT.

In theory, you would want to stuff the run, and force them to keep the ball in RGIII’s hands, and let him make a mistake.

old man

October 3rd, 2012
11:17 am

My favorite, white on white, black hats.

Uncle Rico

October 3rd, 2012
11:19 am

Yep, that was when Mazzetti went 5/5 on field goals! Those games were like David vs Goliath, the Falcons were’nt supposed to win…

Stepchild

October 3rd, 2012
1:07 pm

Question is: have any Falcons been arrested this week????

old man

October 3rd, 2012
2:29 pm

Stepchild:

I hope so. It’s brought us good luck two weeks in a row. A parking ticket, maybe?

Answer This

October 3rd, 2012
2:55 pm

Copy cat leauge so look for the Skins to try and duplicate what the Cats did last week. Can they? Hope not!!! Look for another big Air day out of Ryan this time I think its Julio’s turn to have a monster day. I noticed that for the last two weeks (not counting the hand injury) that teams have rolled double coverage over to his side and the Falcons have feasted with Tony G and my man Roddy. I think HD gets in a little swag this week also. O yea look for Quizz to do his thing out the backfield! I think they will try to bottle Turner up this week but we need him to do just enough to keep them honest because as always he will have 2 to 3 BIG runs for major gain. Is it Sunday yet? Now as for our D, I think we learned some lessons last week. The Skins will try to run right at us but I think we will be in position this week and not get battered at the line like we did last week. Lets go get them BIRDS!!!!

True Falcon Fan

October 3rd, 2012
5:19 pm

Old, ole “MeAngelo” — here we come ……….. “The Quadtripets” will have the Redskins’ LB’s & DB’s chasing their tails foresure

Go Falcons — Pesky Redskins next

Awgi

October 3rd, 2012
5:41 pm

The Falcons…LMAO. Just like the braves, another group of halfwit idiots and losers.

Caints, Aints > FAILCANTS and redneck Mikey M

October 3rd, 2012
6:42 pm

FAILCANTS have ZERO SB rings and the rednecks want to talk smack like they’ve accomplished something….what a joke….win something meaningful first loosahs…until then, stfu and kiss the Aints, Caints and Saints SB ring….lmao at the Delusional Failcant fans….so desperate….

Caints, Aints > FAILCANTS and redneck Mikey M

October 3rd, 2012
6:47 pm

Hey, Failcant fans….where’s your SB ring? Oh,that’s right…you got nothing….must be sad to be celebrating a 4-0 season….pathetic….truth hurts, huh? Pretty sad the Saints won a SB before you perennial losers….rise up? Fall down…everyone of you know the truth – you don’t have what it takes to win the SB….pity….lmao at the FAILCANTS….everyone else does….

Caints, Aints, Saints > Micheael Redneck M and the FAILCANTS

H

October 3rd, 2012
7:34 pm

Knock, Knock
Who’s there?
Noah
Noah who?
Noah wins for them aints

Getaway

October 3rd, 2012
8:24 pm

All four of the quarterbacks the Falcons have faced are or have been Pro-bowlers.
Just sayin….

This year against common opponents Falcons 2-0, Saints 0-2.
Just sayin…

Falcons at 3 and 0, down by 1 on their own 1 yd line, less minute left. Could have packed it in and been happy with 3 and 1, but no, they did what no team has done in over 20 years, came back and won.
Just saying…

LOL at the Aints

October 3rd, 2012
11:29 pm

Knock Knock
Who Dat
Owen
Owen Who
Owen Four, LOL

LOL at the Aints

October 3rd, 2012
11:32 pm

Who Is Mikey M, LOL, step away from the crack pipe my friend, LOL

Michael M.

October 4th, 2012
11:54 am

I know who that is that wrote that post up there , Lol at the Aints…………….thats the Loser hiramsaint……………….that good for nothin low-life scumbag troll ………….hey sackhead……I bet your team does a 5 – 11 this year or maybe worse………its called the curse of the Superbowl you idiot…….no team that hosts the big game has a good season during that year and to add to the demise of the Caints is what they did to their own selves with Bountygate…………..you the biggest idiot I ever saw in all my days…………..Get a Life , you imbecile ! ……………………………………