Falcons rewind: Reeves reflects on march to the Super Bowl

The recommended post-bypass regimen? Win the NFC title, do the Dirty Bird. (AJC file photo)

The recommended post-bypass regimen? Win the NFC title, do the Dirty Bird. (AJC file photo)

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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62 comments Add your comment

Brian

December 14th, 2012
6:51 am

1998 was great time and a good memory, reason i have been telling all of my fellow fans to enjoy the ride we are on now in 2012.

Whadda Ya Know?

December 14th, 2012
7:41 am

We’re missing the stout defensive line we had in 98 and a running back that will try and run you over like Jamal Anderson. The current Falcon team just lacks attitude and bringing a nasty demeanor to every game. We’re just too much of a finesse team the way it stands now. I hope we draft some guys with the mentality of busting the opponent in the mouth every game. I doubt it though with TD’s “Angel” filter. Arthur needs to over rule that fools and get some physical guys in here with attitude. Oh well, I guess one can dream.

Larry

December 14th, 2012
8:36 am

Whadda Ya Know?

There’s no such thing as the Falcon Filter. This is the excuse people like you use to justify thugs and degenerates.

I can pick a whole lot of tough guys that aren’t doping it up and beating their wives and children and win a Super Bowl. In fact, the evidence is on my side as you see none of these types on the squads of Super Bowl winners…just supremely talented men that will knock you on your rear and shake your hand at the end of the game.

This current Falcon team is a stout center (they have him in Konz but he’s out of position), one or two OL guards and a stout nose guard from being elite. We can’t block with our horribly weak interior OL and we cannot collapse the pocket on defense. This is why Matt Ryan has no time for deeper routes to develop and why we are consistently gashed up the middle by opponent’s RB’s, and this is why we will likely fall short once again in the playoffs, sadly.

Harvey D. Pooka

December 14th, 2012
8:39 am

Dan Reeves = Class Act. Best team and best chance Falcons ever had for being Champions. It’d been nice to see “champion” on Reeves resume’, but still, he has nothing to be ashamed of as a coach. And just ask his teammates what kind of person he was a player…….

PMC

December 14th, 2012
8:45 am

Morton Anderson making that clincher is one of the top sports moments of my life.

PMC

December 14th, 2012
8:45 am

Excellent revenge for the debacle that was 1991.

1stn10

December 14th, 2012
8:52 am

Dan’s the MAN!!

1stn10

December 14th, 2012
8:53 am

PMC

December 14th, 2012
8:45 am
Morton Anderson making that clincher is one of the top sports moments of my life.

Ditto! I thought we were going to scream the roof off the house when he made the winning kick. Man what a game.

bill

December 14th, 2012
8:57 am

Chandler’s pass tp tie the game was the greatest play in Falcons hidtory down in an away playoff hame. Great protection an open receiver and a perfect pass from a very underated QB. I can still see the play and after years of failure we succeeded. We played poorly in the Super Bowl becuse we were not as good as Denver and we played not to lose. It was Dan Reeves’ legacy of Super Bowl faiures but he was a good coach, a good guy and the most successful Falcons Coach.

Larry

December 14th, 2012
9:03 am

bill,

This, more than anything, cost the Falcons the Super Bowl:

Eugen Robinson:

After the 1997 season, Robinson joined the Atlanta Falcons in 1998, and after making a game-saving play in the NFC Championship game (breaking up an otherwise certain winning touchdown to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss) made it back to the Super Bowl (the Falcons’ first appearance ever) for the third year in a row, and again faced the Broncos.

During the season, Robinson recorded 46 tackles, two fumble recoveries, four interceptions, and one touchdown return, earning his third career Pro Bowl selection. On the day before Super Bowl XXXIII, he was awarded the Bart Starr Award from the Christian group Athletes in Action for his “high moral character”. However, that very same night he was arrested for offering an undercover female police officer posing as a prostitute $40 for oral sex.[1]

In Super Bowl XXXIII, Robinson gave up an 80-yard touchdown reception to Broncos receiver Rod Smith, giving the Broncos a 17-3 lead over the Falcons. Later, in the fourth quarter, he missed a tackle on Denver running back Terrell Davis that enabled Davis to break a long run to the Atlanta 10-yard line. The Falcons ended up losing the game 34-19, and Robinson was widely denounced by the press and fans for the previous night’s incident.

The next season was Robinson’s last with the Falcons.

1998 Was Our Year

December 14th, 2012
9:05 am

Yeah, 1998 was our year, we should have won it all!! What kills me, is that we beat one of the best teams in NFL history, in the NFC Championship, the “Randy Moss, Chris Carter, and Randall Cunningham” Minnesota Vikings, and we go to the Super Bowl and fall flat on our Faces. What’s even more sad is that outside of Atlanta that season is more noted for the best Minnesota Vikings team in history, rather than the Atlanta Falcons going to the Super Bowl for the first time in Franchise history, but I guess that is the spoils of getting blown out in the Super Bowl.

1998 Was Our Year

December 14th, 2012
9:12 am

@Larry I totally agree with you, 100%, but at the same time the Falcons should have been able to make adjustments, one person doesn’t make a team.

thebighairybeast

December 14th, 2012
9:16 am

The 1998 NFC championship game is still the greatest game I’ve ever watched. Chandler’s game tying TD throw was amazing but . . . I still have visions of Gary Anderson (perfect all season) missing what I believe was a 47 yard field goal to seal the deal for the Vikings. The in over time both teams had their chance. That whole game made my a basket case! Amazing memories of that season and that team!

Falconfever

December 14th, 2012
9:16 am

Dan is AWESOME!!! Love the ‘98 Falcons!!!! Makes me excited for how our version of the “Dirty Birds” will finish the season!! Go Falcons!!

Pietas81

December 14th, 2012
9:24 am

An amazing season, memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The national media giving us no chance, the opening drive ending in a Jamal Anderson touchdown catch and the dirty bird, Chuck Smith stripping Cunningham right before the half and the resulting TD, Gary Anderson missing the kick and Shane Dronett waving his arms, Chandler’s amazing drive after injuring his foot to tie it at the end of regulation, and of course Morten’s kick to end it. I’m still getting chills as I write this, even 14 years later.

tenndawg

December 14th, 2012
9:30 am

Thank you Dan Reeves for all you’ve done for our city.

cowbellhell

December 14th, 2012
9:30 am

Eugene Robinson had his ATL pass revoked that night in Miami, the biggest idiot in Atlanta sports history. ‘Reverend Eugene’ was one of those religious blowhards who love to invoke God in every sentence… what a FAKE!!! He cost us that superbowl and the whole city should hate this dude.

That being said, Minn playoff game was the greatest sporting event I have ever watched.

D man

December 14th, 2012
9:46 am

I said yesterday that this season feels like the 98 season… Go FALCONS!!!

RoswellWarEagle

December 14th, 2012
10:11 am

I attended the NFC Championship game in Minneapolis. It is the best sporting event I have ever attended in my life. Probably the greatest upset in NFC Championship history.

[...] to Original Content From Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog): read more Related Articles Share About Author [...]

morn

December 14th, 2012
10:26 am

Its going to be a while longer, this current team is not playoff caliber let alone Super Bowl. The giants are going to kick butt this weekend after the panthers destroyed the team last weekend. If the falcons dont get a good running back they are doomed forever

cowboys67

December 14th, 2012
10:30 am

Still get amped up when the game is on NFL Networks greatest games I truly beleive that if Atl would have won SB this would go down as one of the 2or3greatest games in the SB era. Falcons were the 1st team with 2losses or less to be on road for a playoff game and a 12point underdog Down by 2scores with Minny going for the throat Chuck Smith makes the biggest defensive play in Falcons history with strip sack on Randall OJ Santiago making big catches in OT and Morten with the 38yard fg to win it… man im ready for the playoffs!!!!!

FalconPride66

December 14th, 2012
10:37 am

The whole city was behind the team in 1998. We need that same level of support on Sunday. Rock the Dome, make it loud for Eli and show the Falcons we are excited about this season, too.

Esquire

December 14th, 2012
11:01 am

I predicted that final score against Minnesota……….30-27………..could not believe it was unfolding exactly to my score. Shoulda had money on it.

Love listening to Mr. Reeves every Monday on the radio. I have to agree with Harvey D. Pooka, Dan Reeves = Class Act. You can see a lot of Mike Smith in Dan Reeves, down to earth men.

Keeping it real

December 14th, 2012
11:11 am

A lot of things have changed since then,that team was more physical,and better coached! contenders don’t go to a 3and 9 team and get thier arses handed to them,contenders blow teams like that away.needles to say,i am a little concened for sundays game!

Stiffneck

December 14th, 2012
11:12 am

Seems the whole Minnesota game John Madden was talking about the Vikings. Then we win on Morten’s kick. Madden was kinda speachless after that -

Keeping it real

December 14th, 2012
11:18 am

That was the best game i have ever witnessed,oh excelp for the GA VS AL game a few weeks back.

Nate

December 14th, 2012
11:19 am

I worked for Delta as an intern in summer of ‘98. A passenger assistant pulls up with a wheelchair to the Falcons Charter, and asks, “Do you need a wheelchair here?” Dan Reeves says, “I hope not.”

Esquire

December 14th, 2012
11:22 am

DLed, thanks for that photo gallery of the “magical season” as you call it. However, I would have been happy to not see a picture of Eugene Robinson for the rest of my born days.

Is that what you are inspired to do after receiving the Bart Starr Award for being a person of high moral character. I would have been happy had the Falcons cut him right then and there, find your own way home from Miami. Unfortunately Reeves gave Robinson the choice to play or not………that was a mistake, one of the few that I recall from Dan.

“You can never measure how much that affected our football team, but there’s no question it was a distraction,” Reeves said.

That morning, Elway and offensive lineman Mark Schlereth were having breakfast when a security guard told them the news. “If I’m completely honest, I was like, ‘Oh well. Looks like we won this game,’ ” Schlereth said. “How do you do that to your football team? “

RBI

December 14th, 2012
11:39 am

I believe, before Mike Smith, Dan Reeves was the best coach the Falcons have ever had. I am not sure I agree with his comments about Crystal Chandelier, though!

vesaversa

December 14th, 2012
11:57 am

Falcons need a new head coach .

tom

December 14th, 2012
12:03 pm

Dan Reeves lost the Super Bowl all by himself. In the previous game they blitzed the quarterback and threw the long ball. They won. In the Super Bowl they did neither and got their butts kicked. End of story.

lowdownjj

December 14th, 2012
1:00 pm

@Vesavrsa: WTH you been watching (or smoking) Smitty turned this franchise around and made us perrinial winners QUICKLY @ Larry: Couldn’t agree with ya more. Beating your wife and hanging at the strip clubs don’t make you a tough football player (look no farther than Tuggle aka The Hammer from the ‘98 team). Thinking about coach Reeves doing the Dirty Bird LMFAO!

lowdownjj

December 14th, 2012
1:03 pm

Just to be crystal clear I mention The Hammer (still got his pro bowl jersey) as proof a player can be a good clean guy AND a feared thumper

dean

December 14th, 2012
1:09 pm

Esquire @ 1122.

When I turned on ESPN at 6:30 in the morning that day and heard the news, I sat down and almost cried. I knew then the game was lost. I can’t believe that people think that Robinson’s dalliance had no effect on the Falcons performance.

Ueeediot

December 14th, 2012
1:18 pm

#1. Tom Glavine and David Justice beat the Indians for the WS title
#2. Braves rally from 2-0 in bottom of ninth to win 7th game of 1992 NLCS
#3 Mort Anderson kicks game winning FG in OT to make Cris Carter cry. “I didnt want to play football any more after that” -Carter

HDB

December 14th, 2012
1:19 pm

Try living in Minnesota….and being a Falcons fan in ‘98!! From getting all the abuse to being able to give the abuse…..seeing Vikings’ fans cry all year was a beautiful thing!! Got to wear the NFC Championship t-shirt all the way to the Super Bowl!!

Ueeediot

December 14th, 2012
1:20 pm

When I arrived in Pinellas Park around 6am for the Super Bowl the newspapers in the boxes all had a ribbon across the top announcing the Broncos vs the Vikings for SB33

cdog

December 14th, 2012
1:30 pm

MR LEDBETTER, i want to apologize to you for comments made earlier.i think you are doing a great job with your commentary.keep up the good work.GOD BLESS YOU.GO FALCONS

Dr. Warren

December 14th, 2012
1:34 pm

As a regular reader, I try to be positive in this blog but also honest. I’ve never criticized you before D. Led, you’ve been good, but this article has been “mailed in.” It is also a missed opportunity. For one, you allowed Reeves to breeze through the interview, merely summarizing the ‘98 season in a very simplistic
way–i.e. “this happened, and then that happened. Anderson was our running back. Blah blah blah.” All of these high-level facts are available online (for those who can’t remember them). What makes a rich interview (and column and blog) is analysis and insight, expressed with candor, not summary or old news. When I clicked I had expected Reeves to provide his perceptions, regrets, realizations, or reflections—not just a block-headed blow-by-blow. Still, you might have whittled that down and called him up again for a redo. Sorry to sound harsh, but obviously the editors don’t give a **** or know better themselves. I hope the following blogs about the ‘98 season will dig below the surface, because it was the most significant year in Atlanta football history and you are our NFL blogger.

Big Donnie

December 14th, 2012
1:35 pm

The Minnesota game in 1998 (the NFC Championship) was the best game I’ve ever seen. Gary Andersen, automatic all year – missed a chip shot, and Mort nailed a 38 yarder. Unbelievable game, unbelievable feeling. Just remembering it makes me ecstatic… Come on Falcons, RISE UP this year

D. Orlando Ledbetter

December 14th, 2012
1:37 pm

Dr. Warren — It’s not an article. They told me to give Coach a call and let him talk. That’s what I did. It’s called an “As told to story” with Coach Reeves. We’re going to do them weekly until the playoffs. I don’t like seeing this stuff on a day that I wrote eight articles for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Have a good weekend.

Big Donnie

December 14th, 2012
1:39 pm

Tom – seriously? If you want to pin the loss on one guy, pin it on Eugene Robinson for trying to get his you-know-what yanked the night before the biggest game in Atlanta sports history. With his wife and kid back at the hotel. Blame him for the media circus that descended on the Falcons, and blame him for getting burned for a TD early on. Dan Reeves did not lose the game for us, and if you think he did, you’re both a moron and a non-fan.

tom
December 14th, 2012
12:03 pm

Dan Reeves lost the Super Bowl all by himself. In the previous game they blitzed the quarterback and threw the long ball. They won. In the Super Bowl they did neither and got their butts kicked. End of story.

big o

December 14th, 2012
1:57 pm

Thinking back to that year always get my eyes a little misty… Two things I remember are.. The play Cornelious Bennett made covering 50 yards down field in the first playoff game against San Fran to save the game… and the fact that in the NFC championship game we had 0 false starts in the Metro Dome and if memory serves we had only two penalties the entire game… Great Team .. Great Year… Great Coach ….

Mike Franklin

December 14th, 2012
2:43 pm

I still have my Superbowl XXXIII car-pennant. Not ashamed to say that when we won that NFC Championship game against the Vikings, 20 years of waiting and frustration nearly turned to tears of joy.

I also recall the 1980 ‘Leeman Bennett Superbowl Team’ song that came out during the Christmas season of that year. I wish I could find a copy.

11 wins in 2012, mean nothing.
2 losses in 2012 mean everything.
To the sports media, that is. But, no matter. We will go to the Superdome and win the Super Bowl.

No doubt.

Mike Franklin

December 14th, 2012
2:53 pm

DOL,

Thanks for the memories. I mean that.

Whadda Ya Know?

December 14th, 2012
4:08 pm

Larry (8:36) – “There’s no such thing as the Falcon Filter. This is the excuse people like you use to justify thugs and degenerates.” Do you know me? Do you know what my intent was when I made my comments? People like me…use to justify thugs and degenerates?

You don’t know what you are talking about. It’s apparent that you’re as ignorant as can be and just spew some garbage and feel justify because I mentioned that the Falcons have a filter. Well they do. Arthur even acknowledged it and said they good be possibly over looking talent. Now if the owner said it, then it must true. So next time do your homework before you come on a blog making accusations dumb a$$.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

December 14th, 2012
7:10 pm

Mike Franklin – You’re welcome. Will talk to Coach Dan again next week. I think I want him to talk about JAM, doing the Dirty Bird and maybe getting ready for the San Francisco game (which I covered for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

SCFalcon

December 14th, 2012
8:33 pm

Hang in there DOL a B Hole is born every 60 seconds. You can’t avoid them!

Esquire

December 15th, 2012
12:32 am

5-6-7-8
Everywhere we goooO,
Everywhere we goooO,
People wanna knooOw,
People wanna knooOw,
Who we aaa are,
Who we aaa are,
So we tell theem, So we tell theem,
We are the FALCONS!! We are the FALCONS!!
MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS, MIGHTY MIGHTY FALCONS !!
OHH AHH OHH YEEAHH

5-6-7-8 WHO DO WE APPRECIATE???? GOOOOO FALCONS!!!!!!

WHERE’S MIKE’S COX????? I NEED IT BAD TONIGHT!!!! Please???