By MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
Who: Falcons wide receiver Michael Haynes
What: NFC wild-card playoff game, Falcons vs. Saints
When: Dec. 28, 1991
Score: Falcons 27, Saints 20
What happened: A New Orleans native goes home and prolongs the home team’s playoff misery.
After Haynes scored on a 61-yard catch from Chris Miller to lift the Falcons to victory, Falcons coach Jerry Glanville called it “the fastest touchdown I’ve ever seen.”
Haynes said there was a reason for that.
“I had scored a touchdown in the game before that, and on that play I cracked two ribs,” he said. “So during the (second) touchdown catch I had two cracked ribs and I was thinking, ‘I can’t get tackled because it’s going to hurt.’ I ran as fast as I ever had.”
With the score tied and less than three minutes left, Haynes caught a short pass and made a move to get around Saints cornerback (and friend) Milton Mack. Haynes, who had been a sprinter at the Olympic trials, broke free and the Saints never caught him.
“They blitzed and left me in the corner one-on-one,” he said. “Once I got clear I just started to turn the jets on.”
Haynes ran track for Joseph Clark High in New Orleans before taking up football at Northern Arizona. The Saints were crushed by a hometown guy.
“That’s what made it more special,” he said. “I always enjoyed going down there to play the Saints. I grew up with some of the guys, and we always had a lot of fun. I caught a lot of grief about that (play), but that’s part of the whole fun of it.”
The Saints’ last gasp ended when Tim McKyer intercepted Bobby Hebert’s pass. That led to the memorable “throw back” return involving Deion Sanders and Joe Fishback that ended with a touchdown wiped out by a penalty.
At the time the Saints, who started play in 1967, were the only team in the NFL that had never won a playoff game. They wouldn’t win a playoff game until 2000.
As far as the Falcons were concerned, they should have opened the 1991 playoffs at home. They could have earned the right with a victory at Dallas in the regular-season finale, but lost 31-27 after leading in the fourth quarter.
“What I remember is we were angry about losing to Dallas and not getting home field (advantage), and we felt like we had something to prove,” Haynes said. “We took it out on New Orleans. It was a very physical game like it usually was with the Saints.”
The Falcons lost at Washington in the divisional round the following week.
Where is he now? Haynes runs XL212, an Alpharetta company that promotes high school athletes and runs camps in an effort to get them college scholarships.
“We mostly work with second-tier kids that get overlooked by schools because I was one of those kids,” Haynes said. “We try to help those kids and get them a second look.”
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