|1998 Atlanta Falcons season|
|General manager||Harold Richardson|
|Head coach||Dan Reeves |
Rich Brooks (weeks 15–16)
|Home field||Georgia Dome|
|Division place||1st NFC West|
|Playoff finish||Won Divisional Playoffs (vs. 49ers) 20–18|
Won NFC Championship (at Vikings) 30–27 (OT)
Lost Super Bowl XXXIII (vs. Broncos) 19–34
|Pro Bowlers||QB Chris Chandler|
RB Jamal Anderson
LB Jessie Tuggle
CB Ray Buchanan
S Eugene Robinson
The 1998 Atlanta Falcons season was the franchise's 33rd in the National Football League (NFL). The Falcons qualified for the Super Bowl for the first time under the guidance of second-year head coach Dan Reeves, becoming the first dome team to play in a Super Bowl. The Falcons won their final nine regular season games to earn the #2 seed in the National Football Conference (NFC) for the postseason and the first-week bye. They and the Broncos both had 14–2 records, but the Falcons were the second best in the league because they had a better record against common opponents. They beat the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional round and the #1-seed Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game before losing to Reeves’ old team, the Denver Broncos, 34–19 in Super Bowl XXXIII. They were a perfect 8–0 at home.
Head coach Dan Reeves almost didn't make it to the end of the season. After Week 15, he was diagnosed with multiple blockages to his coronary arteries, necessitating quadruple bypass surgery. Reeves admitted he ignored the warning signs in hopes of finishing the season, but ultimately felt he needed to be checked out. Doctors stated by the time he went for treatment, he may have been “within hours of a catastrophic heart attack.” Defensive coordinator Rich Brooks substituted for him as head coach during Weeks 16 and 17. Reeves returned for the playoffs and finished the season.
The Falcons ranked fourth in the league in points scored (442 points) and surrendered the fourth-fewest points (289) in 1998; the Falcons also led the league in turnover differential at +20. Their +153 point differential is the best in team history. Of Atlanta's fourteen wins, eight of them were decided by at least nine points, with their season superlative 51–23 win to complete their sweep of the Panthers.
Main article: 1998 NFL draft
|1998 Atlanta Falcons draft|
|1||12||Keith Brooking *||Linebacker||Georgia Tech|
|2||53||Bob Hallen||Center||Kent State|
|3||74||Jammi German||Wide receiver||Miami (FL)|
|4||103||Omar Brown||Defensive back||North Carolina|
|4||114||Tim Dwight||Wide receiver||Iowa|
|6||166||Elijah Williams||Defensive back||Florida|
|7||199||Ephraim Salaam||Offensive tackle||San Diego State|
|7||201||Ken Oxendine||Running back||Virginia Tech|
|7||203||Henry Slay||Defensive tackle||West Virginia|
|Made roster * Made at least one Pro Bowl during career|
Special teams coaches
Strength and conditioning
This was the first occasion when the Falcons played the New York Giants since 1988, and their first visit to Giants Stadium since 1982. This is due to old NFL scheduling formulas in place prior to 2002, whereby teams had no rotating schedule opposing members of other divisions within their own conference, but instead played interdivisional conference games according to position within a season's table.
|1||September 6||at Carolina Panthers||W 19–14||1–0||Ericsson Stadium||Recap|
|2||September 13||Philadelphia Eagles||W 17–12||2–0||Georgia Dome||Recap|
|4||September 27||at San Francisco 49ers||L 20–31||2–1||Candlestick Park||Recap|
|5||October 4||Carolina Panthers||W 51–23||3–1||Georgia Dome||Recap|
|6||October 11||at New York Giants||W 34–20||4–1||Giants Stadium||Recap|
|7||October 18||New Orleans Saints||W 31–23||5–1||Georgia Dome||Recap|
|8||October 25||at New York Jets||L 3–28||5–2||Giants Stadium||Recap|
|9||November 1||St. Louis Rams||W 38–15||6–2||Georgia Dome||Recap|
|10||November 8||at New England Patriots||W 41–10||7–2||Foxboro Stadium||Recap|
|11||November 15||San Francisco 49ers||W 31–19||8–2||Georgia Dome||Recap|
|12||November 22||Chicago Bears||W 20–13||9–2||Georgia Dome||Recap|
|13||November 29||at St. Louis Rams||W 21–10||10–2||Trans World Dome||Recap|
|14||December 6||Indianapolis Colts||W 28–21||11–2||Georgia Dome||Recap|
|15||December 13||at New Orleans Saints||W 27–17||12–2||Louisiana Superdome||Recap|
|16||December 20||at Detroit Lions||W 24–17||13–2||Pontiac Silverdome||Recap|
|17||December 27||Miami Dolphins||W 38–16||14–2||Georgia Dome||Recap|
|Note: Intra-division opponents are in bold text.|
|(2) Atlanta Falcons||14||2||0||.875||442||289||W9|
|(4) San Francisco 49ers||12||4||0||.750||479||328||W1|
|New Orleans Saints||6||10||0||.375||305||359||L3|
|St. Louis Rams||4||12||0||.250||285||378||L2|
The Falcons' most decisive win of the season came in a 51–23 rout in the Georgia Dome. Jamal Anderson rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown while Chris Chandler threw for 189 yards and two touchdowns with two picks. From Tim Dwight’s 93-yard opening kickoff return touchdown, the Falcons never let Carolina have a sniff of contention, leading 38–3 by the third quarter before cruising home with the win.
Atlanta’s offense rolled up 41 points while the defense limited New England to just ten points at Foxboro Stadium in a game where New England never got closer than a 14–3 score after one quarter and trailed 28–3 at the half. Jamal Anderson ran in two scores, Chris Chandler threw two more, and Chuck Smith grabbed a fumble at his 29 and ran it back for a touchdown. Chandler completed 15 of 22 throws for 240 yards and Anderson rushed for 104 yards. About the only thing that went wrong for the Falcons were two meaningless picks by the Patriots' Ty Law.
The Falcons avenged one of the only two losses they would suffer in the regular season by besting the Niners 31–19 in the Georgia Dome. Steve Young threw for 342 yards and touchdowns to Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice, but Jamal Anderson’s 100-rushing yards and two scores helped the Falcons put away the Niners in a wild fourth quarter in which the two teams combined for 34 points (21 by the Falcons).
|Divisional||January 9, 1999||San Francisco 49ers (4)||W 20–18||1–0||Georgia Dome||Recap|
|NFC Championship||January 17, 1999||at Minnesota Vikings (1)||W 30–27 (OT)||2–0||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||Recap|
|Super Bowl||January 31, 1999||Denver Broncos (A1)||L 19–34||2–1||Pro Player Stadium||Recap|
The rubber match of Atlanta and San Francisco's 1998 season came in the Georgia Dome a week after the Niners' spectacular last-minute comeback over the Green Bay Packers. The Falcons, though, would not be denied as Jamal Anderson once again hauled the mail with 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Steve Young threw a touchdown to Jerry Rice and ran in a late fourth-quarter score; Ty Detmer threw the ensuing two-point conversion to Greg Clark to put the score at 20–18, but the Falcons never let the Niners any closer for their first playoff win since 1991.
As of 2020 this remains the greatest win in Falcons history and one of the most amazing upsets in NFL history. The 16–1 Vikings, boasting the league's highest-scoring post-merger offense, were heavy favorites at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and raced to a 20–7 lead in the second quarter off two Randall Cunningham touchdowns (one rushing and a throw to Randy Moss), but at the end of the first half Chris Chandler found Terance Mathis for a 14-yard score. After a Morten Andersen field goal made it 20–17 in the third, the Vikings surged to a 27–17 lead on another Cunningham TD throw (this one to Matthew Hatchette). In the frantic final ten minutes of regulation the Falcons were forced to turn the ball over on downs, but the Vikings fumbled it right back and Andersen kicked another field goal for a 27–20 score. In the final four minutes Gary Anderson, who hadn't missed a field goal all season, shanked a 38-yarder, and suddenly the surging Falcons had a chance, and nailed it when Chandler led the Falcons downfield and connected with Mathis in the endzone with 49 seconds remaining. The Vikings got the ball in overtime but Eugene Robinson stopped a deep pass to Moss and the Falcons got it back on a punt. Chandler led the Falcons downfield again and Andersen nailed a 38-yard field goal at 11:52 of the extra quarter; the 30–27 final sent the Falcons to Super Bowl XXXIII.