An Improvement at RB?
Michael Turner is the only player in Atlanta Falcons history to record five straight seasons with 10 touchdowns, amassing 60 TDs from 2008 to 2012. Steven Jackson has rushed for only 56 TDs over his nine-year career. However, Jackson still is in good company. Jackson is one of only 13 players to have over 2,800 touches over any nine-year span. Seven of those players are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; the other five are Ricky Watters, Jerome Bettis, Eddie George, Edgerrin James and LaDainian Tomlinson.
Deion Sanders is the NFL's all-time leader with 19 TD returns (three kick, six punt, nine interceptions, and one fumble). He is one of only six players since 1941 to have a touchdown return from each of those four categories. Not only did Sanders play both defense and special teams, he also played baseball. On Oct. 11, 1992, as a member of both the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves, Sanders played in an NFL game in Miami before flying straight to Pittsburgh for Game 5 of the NLCS against the Pirates. Although he didn't play in the nightcap, he became the only player to suit up for both an NFL game and MLB game on the same day. That year, Sanders led the NFL in kick return yards, with 1,067, and the MLB in triples, with 14.
An Empty Hall
Deion Sanders is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he only spent five of his 14 NFL seasons with the Falcons. Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson, Chris Doleman, and Tommy McDonald all spent two or fewer years in Atlanta. Sanders is the only Hall of Famer to play five-plus seasons with the Falcons over their 47 years in existence. The Falcons legacy of Hall of Fame futility is only matched by the Cincinnati Bengals, who also have had only one Hall of Famer (Anthony Muñoz) since their inception in 1968. Only the nascent Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Carolina Panthers have no contributions to Canton.
A New Era
The Falcons have a winning record each of the last five seasons since drafting Matt Ryan. This success is unprecedented; since their advent in 1966, the Falcons needed 26 years to accumulate a total of five winning seasons (not including the strike-shortened 1982 season). Ryan has led Atlanta to the playoffs each of the last three years. Never before had the Falcons earned back-to-back playoff berths -- the team's 45-year drought in that category was the longest in NFL history.
Best Start Ever
Despite his 1-4 postseason record, Matt Ryan signed a contract extension that made him the fourth highest paid QB in the NFL based on average yearly salary. Is he worth it? Well, since 2008, Ryan ranks first among quarterbacks in fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. By some measures, he has had the best five-year start in NFL history. Since 1960, Ryan's 14 fourth-quarter comebacks, 22 game-winning drives and 56 wins are records for a QBs first five seasons.
The Falcons drafted Brett Favre in the second round (33rd overall) in 1991. As a rookie, Favre sat behind Chris Miller and Billy Joe Tolliver. Favre finished with only four pass attempts with zero completions, one sack, and two interceptions (a passer rating of 0.0) and was traded to the Green Bay Packers at season's end. Miller and Tolliver combined for 17 starts as Falcons over the rest of their careers. Brett Favre would go on to start 275 consecutive games (including playoffs) for the Packers.
Michael Vick can run. As a member of the 2006 Falcons, he became the first and only QB in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards. He gained 8.45 yards per rush that year, also an NFL record. Vick's 5,551 rushing yards are good for 11th among all active players and rank as the most all-time for a QB. His career rushing average is 7.02 yards per carry, another all-time mark. Vick is also the only NFL player to sign two different $100 million contracts: a 10-year, $130 million contract extension in 2004 with the Falcons and a 6-year, $100 million deal in 2011 with the Eagles.
Nobody beat Green Bay at home in the postseason ... literally nobody. Until Michael Vick, that is. Since the postseason started in 1933, Green Bay had gone 13-0 in home playoff games. In 2002, Green Bay also was undefeated at home during the regular season. In the NFC Wild Card Game at Lambeau Field, Michael Vick's first NFL playoff game, the Falcons defeated Brett Favre and the Packers 27-7. Vick lost in the next round to a Donovan McNabb-led Eagles team, and the Falcons have only two playoff wins since.
A Dynamic White-out
Roddy White has had six straight 1,000-plus yard seasons (tied with Brandon Marshall for longest active streak) and four straight Pro Bowl appearances. In the last four seasons, White has totaled 5,189 yards receiving. By comparison, during recent Hall of Fame inductee Cris Carter's best four-season span, Carter only amassed 4,861 yards.
On Oct. 23, 1976, the Falcons recorded the third-worst passing performance in NFL history. Quarterbacks Kim McQuilken and Scott Hunter combined for minus-39 passing yards en route to a 15-0 loss to San Francisco. The team averaged minus-1.1 yards per passing play and lost 168 yards via sacks and penalties while only gaining 129 gross yards on offense. Just how terrible was their offensive performance? The Falcons had only eight completions and were sacked a total of eight times.
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