In a weekly feature leading up to the playoffs, former Falcons coach Dan Reeves will talk with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s staff writer D. Orlando Ledbetter about the team’s march to Super Bowl XXXIII during the 1998 season. Here’s a photo gallery from the magical season.
After 13 weeks, like the 2012 Falcons, Reeves’ team was 11-2 record but some major drama was lurking. Reeves recalls:
“Well, we were in a fight with San Francisco in our division. It was a tight race. We played New Orleans over there and we had to win the game to stay in position in our division. That was big game. Big rivalry. Playing in New Orleans is always a tough place to play.
We won the game and after the game is when I found out that I had a problem with my heart. I just thought they’d probably do some kind of procedure and I’d be back out there the next day.
But then I found out I had to have bypass surgery. Then I started worrying about that we had (five) games left. These were all big games and you don’t want to be missing the big games that mean so much.
I ended up watching some of it. … We played Detroit and I was in the hospital for that game. Boy, we played great and ended up winning and kept it going. Then we played Miami and beat them. Then we had a bye week and that ended up winning our division for us.
Then I was back on the sidelines almost four weeks (post-surgery). They were all big games just to try to stay ahead of San Francisco. Rich Brooks took over and coached and did a great job.
It was such an exciting time for the Falcons fan base. Heck, we were 14-2 and didn’t even win home-field advantage. Minnesota won it. We still had to play. We ended up beating San Francisco and then we had to go up to Minnesota.
They had only lost one game and that’s probably the most exciting game that I’ve ever been a part of (a 30-27 overtime victory).
Rich and Jack Burns on the offensive side. He was coaching our quarterbacks and he did a real good job of keeping the offense on track.
Chris Chandler was a heck of a quarterback. You give him a game plan and he was a lot like Matt (Ryan) from a standpoint of he could throw the heck out of the football and had a great grasp. … You could give him a game plan on Wednesday and by Wednesday afternoon, he already had it memorized …
(Heart surgery) happened too fast. I told the team about everything that had happened after I got out of the hospital. I went out there and I was able to wish them good luck before they went to Detroit. I saw them before they left and I wished them good luck. The coaching staff had done a great job. It goes to show you how much you’d be missed (laughs). They didn’t miss me at all. They just went out there and won.
We really and truly had a really good football team. We had a lot of veterans like Jessie Tuggle on defense, Chris Chandler on offense. With Jamal Anderson, we had a great running game. It was just an unbelievable year. It’s unfortunate that we came up one game short. It was a great, great season and hopefully we can get back there this year and the Falcons can win the thing.”
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