The Atlanta Falcons are a professional American football team based in Atlanta, Georgia. They are a member of the South Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The Falcons joined the NFL in 1965 as an expansion team, after the NFL offered then-owner Rankin Smith a franchise to keep him from joining the rival American Football League (AFL).
The AFL instead granted a franchise to Miami, Florida (the Miami Dolphins). In their 45 years of existence, the Falcons have compiled a record of 298/402/6 with division championships in 1980, 1998, 2004, and 2010. Their first and only Super Bowl appearance was Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999.
On March 19, 2003, the Falcons presented their new logo. The new Atlanta Falcons logo is fresh, strong and dynamic, and yet appreciates the tradition and history of this franchise,said Falcons owner and CEO Arthur Blank. The new logo depicts a more powerful, aggressive Falcon – one of fast movement. It is also representative of the evolution and direction of our team.
During the 2003 preseason Michael Vick broke his leg and missed the first twelve games of the season. After losing 7 straight games, the decision was made to release head coach Dan Reeves. Wade Phillips acted as interim coach for the final 3 games. Although the Falcons won 3 of their last 4 games after the return of Michael Vick, they ended up with a dismal 5/11 record that year.
New head coach Jim Mora was hired and Michael Vick returned for the full season, when the Falcons went 11/5, winning their third division title and earn a first-round bye into the playoffs. In the divisional playoffs, the Falcons defeated the St. Louis Rams 47-17 in the Georgia Dome, advancing to the NFC Championship, which they lost to the Eagles 27-10.
The Falcons fell short again of achieving back-to-back winning seasons in 2005, going 8/8. In 2006, Michael Vick became the first quarterback in league history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, with 1,039.
After finishing the season 7/9, however, coach Jim Mora was dismissed and Bobby Petrino, the University of Louisville’s football coach, replaced him. Before the 2007, Vick was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after pleading guilty to charges involving dog fighting in the state of Virginia.
On December 10, 2007, Vick received a 23-month prison sentence and was officially cut from the Atlanta roster. In the beginning of the 2007 season, the Falcons were forced to start Joey Harrington at quarterback. On December 11, 13 games into his first NFL season as head coach, Bobby Petrino resigned without notice to coach at the University of Arkansas, leaving the beleaguered players only a note in the locker room.
On January 13, 2008, the Falcons named the former Patriots director of college football scouting Thomas Dimitroff General Manager. On January 23, 2008, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coach and former linebackers coach for the 2000 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens Mike Smith was named the Falcons’ new head coach.
On March 2, Michael Turner agreed to a 6-year deal worth $ 30 million.On April 26, Matt Ryan (quarterback from Boston College) was drafted third overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. He started all 16 games in his rookie season and was named the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The Falcons finished the 2008 regular season with a record of 11/5. On December 21, 2008, Atlanta Falcons beat the Minnesota Vikings 24/17 to clinch a wild card spot, earning a trip to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Falcons would go on to lose in the wild-card round of the 2008 NFL playoffs to the eventual NFC champion Arizona Cardinals, 30/24.
The Atlanta Falcons hold the record among all major American sports leagues for the longest streak of seasons without consecutive winning seasons, a streak that lasted from 1966-2008. Though they failed to make the playoffs, the streak ended in 2009 when the Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-10 in the final game of the season to improve their record to 9-7.
In 2010, with a regular season record of 13-3, their best regular season record since the 1998 Super Bowl season, the Falcons secured a third straight winning season, their fourth overall divisional title, and the top overall seed in the NFC playoffs.
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