Jan. 06, 2018
Falcons Flashback Friday: vs. Rams, 2004 Playoff
2004: The Atlanta Falcons were the upstart NFL team. They had the most electrifying QB in the NFL in Michael Vick. The running game with him as Mr. Elusive, Warrick Dunn's speed, and TJ Duckett's physicality was a dynamic bunch. Alge Crumpler was one of the better tight ends in the NFL and going to the Georgia Dome was now a hard ticket.
After the 2003 year where a fractured fibula took Vick out for the most of the season and dashed away any chances for the Falcons that year, a new system under Jim Mora took place as well as the drafting of Roddy White, signing of defensive tackle Rod Coleman, and the continuing emergence of LB Keith Brooking and DE Patrick Kerney. Atlanta went 11-5 in 2004, winning their first division championship since 1998 and looking to make a splash into a Super Bowl.
The Rams, then located in St. Louis, was ending their era of the Greatest Show on Turf. Kurt Warner was gone by then, teaching the tricks of the trade to rookie Eli Manning and the Giants. Marshall Faulk was splitting carries with Steven Jackson (yes, the same one who became a Falcon in the mini-dark years in 2013-14) and the Isaac Bruce/Torry Holt combo was still solid (nearly 2,600 yards together), but nothing like they were with Warner. They were slowing down from the time they were explosive.
The game felt like that Playstation game, even then. You had big plays such as a Michael Vick 47-yard run that sent the tone. Then the Rams answered with Kevin Curtis on a 57-yard receiving TD followed by a Warrick Dunn 62-yard rush. TD Dunn would score on another relative big run (19 yards out) before Rams QB found Marc Bulger hit Torry Holt from 28 to make it a 21-14 Falcons lead. Then Allen Rossum took a punt return of 68 yards back to the house to make it a 28-14 but not before the Rams quickly drove the ball down to FG territory for a 55-yard conversion to make it 28-17.
But it was all the Rams would get.
The 2nd half was entirely different as Atlanta took time off the clock and the Rams took sacks, penalties, turned the ball over, and then ended up giving up 2 on a safety. After the safety, the Falcons took a 14-play, 68 yard drive that lasted 9:33 that saw the Falcons pass the ball only once, converted 2 third downs and one fourth down. It was a great, text-book fourth quarter drive that not many teams today can do. The Falcons capped it off on a TJ Duckett 6-yard TD for a 47-17 lead and ultimately the final score.
Atlanta would end up playing in Philadelphia in the NFC Championship game, where they would lose to the much more experienced Eagles team the next week.
But the Falcons win over the Rams was one of the more impressive games Atlanta would have in the playoffs until their wins over the Seahawks and Packers. And the players were memorable on both sides. Allen Rossum was a great return man for the Falcons. Warrick Dunn was probably at the height of his career. The defense, while not a force, were a turnover machine, recording 19 interceptions (Aaron Beasley led the team with 4) and getting 14 recovered fumbles thanks to guys like Brooking, Coleman, Brady Smith, and Ed Jasper. It was that kind of attack that kept passing offenses honest that year.
Ironically, the story has flipped a little bit now. The Rams are the up-and-coming group and while the Falcons are not falling down to reality as the players are aging, they went backwards compared to last year. The Rams hope to do what the Falcons did to them in 2004 but Atlanta wants to show that experience will win out. Time will see if history repeats itself or.....history repeats itself
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat