By MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
Who: Falcons kicker Morten Andersen
What: NFC Championship game, Falcons vs. Vikings
When: Jan. 17, 1999
Score: Falcons 30, Vikings 27 (OT)
What happened: After Gary Anderson finally missed a kick for Minnesota, Morten Andersen delivered a perfect kick for the Falcons.
Some Falcons players were on their knees, hands clasped in prayer. Others looked to the sky or held hands in a chain.
Morten Andersen, the guy who actually had to attempt the kick that could send the Falcons to their first Super Bowl, was not among them.
“I’m looking at them like, ‘I don’t think these guys think I’m going to make it,” Andersen said with a laugh. “To me, it was a foregone conclusion. I had no anxiety at all. It was weird.”
That’s because field-goal attempts don’t come with much more pressure than that one.
Before the 1998 season, the Falcons had won only two playoff games in their history. They posted a 14-2 record that season, but it was good for only second in the NFC because Minnesota rode a juggernaut offense to a 15-1 mark.
The Falcons made it to the conference title game for the first time, but were heavy underdogs. They rallied from 20-7 down to tie the score in regulation — after Minnesota’s Gary Anderson miss his first field-goal attempt of the season.
Make the 38-yard kick, and Andersen would complete a stunning upset and lift Atlanta’s sad-sack franchise to unprecedented heights. But Andersen said it never occurred to him that he might miss.
“It sounds cocky, and I don’t mean it to sound that way,” he said. “I was just really confident.”
So while his teammates nervously awaited the outcome, Andersen felt as if he already knew.
“Mentally I was a pretty strong guy in those situations, and I had more success than not when comes down to winning kicks,” he said. “To be able to go in the zone and hit a ball that was flawless, right down the middle — (the goalposts) could have been a foot wide and it’s still good — is pretty good in that kind of situation.”
Andersen said making the kick was a highlight of his career, and he’s proud to be a major part of the biggest victory in Falcons history. But he said doesn’t think about it much anymore because of the anti-climatic end to the Falcons’ season, the 34-19 loss to the Broncos in the Super Bowl two weeks later.
“The end game was a disappointment, so you think about how high you are and then how low,” he said.
Where is he now: Andersen lives in metro Atlanta and offers kicking instruction to players through his web site, mortenandersen.com.
Andersen also is organizing a golf event for a charity that supports critically wounded special-operations soldiers and their families. For information, go to specialteamsforspecialops.com.
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