The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 10 moments in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 10 takes us back to 1991 as the franchise recorded its first road playoff win and helped kickoff a decade that would eventually lead to a Super Bowl.
Date: Dec. 28, 1991
The moment: There is nothing more hostile than the road playoff game, and after missing out on postseason play for more than a decade, the Atlanta Falcons were able to rise to the occasion against their most familiar rival. Atlanta finished the 1991 season at 10-6, the franchise’s best mark since they went 12-4 in 1980 and took a trip to New Orleans in the Wild Card Round searching for the franchise’s first playoff victory. Falcons quarterback Chris Miller hit wide receiver and Louisiana native Michael Haynes for a game-winning 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown to beat the Saints 27-20. Miller threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns in the win while Haynes totaled six catches for 144 yards and two scores. Both Tim McKyer and Deion Sanders recorded interceptions of future Falcon backup quarterback Bobby Herbet.
The immediate and lasting impact: While the Falcons would lose in the next round at Washington, the road playoff victory certainly intensified the Falcons rivalry with the Saints, but the win led the franchise into a new era. The timing of the 1991 success and playoff victory could not have been better. With the grand opening of the Georgia Dome coming the following season, the Falcons put together the type of season that carried momentum into this new chapter. Then-rookie Jessie Tuggle made his record-setting debut in 1991 and finished with an NFL-best 207 tackles. With the Braves beginning their run of 14 straight division titles, so much would take place in the city during the 1990’s and the excitement the 1991 Falcons provided helped set the tone.
The speed of Haynes: Atlanta head coach Jerry Glanville new what the speedy Haynes was capable of, but after watching the 61-yard game-winning score, even he was shocked. Glanville described the jaw-dropping breakaway speed of Haynes’ heroics as, “the fastest touchdown I’ve ever seen”.
On another note: Throughout the 1991 season, the Falcons were cheered on the sidelines by rapper M.C. Hammer, whose song “Too Legit to Quit” was adopted by the team as their anthem that year. Atlanta saw several last-second wins prior to the Wild Card victory in 1991, including a 23-20 overtime thriller in New Orleans Week 13.
What the AJC wrote: “The ending would have to be outrageous, or it wouldn’t be a quite fitting playoff victory for this Falcons team. You do not expect to hear classics from a one-man band or to eat pheasant from a Happy Meal box. Nor should you think for a minute these Falcons would achieve their most significant victory in 13 years in a prudent, careful way.
“So, there in the last minute Saturday was their secondary playing live grenade with a season-prolonging interception. One foolish lateral gave way to one forward one, when all anyone had to do was down the ball. For crying out loud, somebody claim custody of the thing. They just had to tempt disaster for the sake of a little wild fun.
“The rest of the Falcons took this as their signal to begin celebrating a 27-20 wildcard playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints. The sideline was in riot, the weight of a tradition of failure suddenly lifted. They knew that when the moment breaks down to its most haphazard parts, it belongs to the Falcons.”
Catch a new Top 10 play in Falcons history every week through the end of the season.