2002 Atlanta Falcons season

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2002 Atlanta Falcons season
Head coach Dan Reeves
Home field Georgia Dome
Results
Record 9–6–1
Division place 2nd NFC South
Playoff finish Lost Divisional Round
Timeline
Previous season Next season
< 2001 2003 >

The 2002 Atlanta Falcons season was their 37th in the league and first in the newly-formed NFC South. The team improved upon their previous season's output of 7–9 and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in four years. The team was also involved in a rare tie, matching the Pittsburgh Steelers 34–34 at the end of overtime.[1] This was the most recent tie in the NFL until the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals tied 13–13[2] in the 2008 season.

Personnel[edit]

Staff[edit]

2002 Atlanta Falcons staff
Front office
  • Chairman/President/Chief Executive Officer – Arthur Blank
  • Senior Advisor to the President – Bobby Beathard
  • Vice President of Football Operations – Ron Hill
  • College Scouting Coordinator – Reed Johnson
  • Director of Pro Personnel – Les Snead
  • Assistant to Head Coach/Pro Personnel – Marvin Bass

Head coaches

  • Executive Vice President/Head Coach – Dan Reeves

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches

Special teams coaches

Strength and conditioning

  • Strength and Conditioning – Al Miller
  • Assistant Strength and Conditioning – Rocky Colburn

Schedule[edit]

Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 September 8, 2002 at Green Bay Packers L 37–34
63,127
2 September 15, 2002 Chicago Bears L 14–13
68,081
3 September 22, 2002 Cincinnati Bengals W 30–3
68,129
4 Bye
5 October 6, 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers L 20–6
68,936
6 October 13, 2002 at New York Giants W 17–10
78,728
7 October 20, 2002 Carolina Panthers W 30–0
68,056
8 October 27, 2002 at New Orleans Saints W 37–35
67,883
9 November 3, 2002 Baltimore Ravens W 20–17
68,532
10 November 10, 2002 at Pittsburgh Steelers T 34–34
62,779
11 November 17, 2002 New Orleans Saints W 24–17
70,382
12 November 24, 2002 at Carolina Panthers W 41–0
72,533
13 December 1, 2002 at Minnesota Vikings W 30–24
63,947
14 December 8, 2002 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers L 34–10
65,648
15 December 15, 2002 Seattle Seahawks L 30–24
69,551
16 December 22, 2002 Detroit Lions W 36–15
69,307
17 December 29, 2002 at Cleveland Browns L 24–16
73,528

Playoffs[edit]

Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
Wild Card January 4, 2003 at Green Bay Packers W 27–7
65,358
Divisional January 11, 2003 at Philadelphia Eagles L 20–6
66,452

Notable Games[edit]

The Falcons debuted in the new NFC South with what proved to be the first of two meetings at Lambeau Field with the Packers. After a Ryan Longwell field goal for the Packers in the first quarter new Falcons starting quarterback Michael Vick began moving Atlanta's offense and ran in a one-yard touchdown early in the second; not three minutes after Vick's touchdown the Falcons had the ball back and Warrick Dunn ran in a touchdown. A David Martin catch from Brett Favre followed, but the Falcons led 21–10 at the half. Green Bay surged back to the lead on touchdowns by Rondell Mealey and rookie Javon Walker for a 27–24 lead. Scores by Dunn and William Henderson left the Packers up 34–31 before Jay Feely tied it on the final play of regulation. It took nearly ten minutes of overtime before Longwell finished it off with a 34-yard field goal and a 37–34 Packers win.

Atlanta's perennial arch-foe, the Saints had raced to a 6–1 record when they hosted the 3–3 Falcons. The Saints clawed to a 10–0 lead in the first quarter, then Michael Vick and Warrick Dunn rushing scores put Atlanta up 14–10 at the half. Bob Christian ran in a score early in the third, but less than two minutes later Aaron Brooks landed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Deuce McAllister and then caught a two-point pass from Boo Williams. Two Jay Feely field goals and a Joe Horn touchdown made it 27–25 Atlanta early in the fourth before Vick ran 32 yards for another touchdown. The Saints erupted with another McAllister score and a John Carney field goal, but on the final play Feely finished off the Saints from 47 yards out and a 37–35 Falcons win.

Now 4–3, the Falcons began riding momentum as they hosted the 3–4 Ravens. Michael Vick completed only 12 of 24 passes with one INT and rushed seven times, suffering a net loss of five yards. Despite this the Falcons stayed toe-to-toe with the Ravens, racing to a 17–3 lead in the second before Baltimore tied it. Kicker Jay Feely booted a 40-yard field goal in the third, and after that the Falcons defense shut out the Ravens enough for a 20–17 Atlanta win.

Former draft bust (and XFL champ) Tommy Maddox replaced Kordell Stewart early in the season and the Steelers overcame an 0–2 start to win five of their next six games. The Steelers fell behind 7–3 following a 43-yard touchdown from Michael Vick to Shawn Jefferson, but two Maddox touchdown throws put Pittsburgh up 17–7 at the half. After a 59-yard Warrick Dunn score Maddox found Plaxico Burress from 62 yards out, but the PAT was blocked. Maddox later found Jerame Tuman and a two-point throw to Hines Ward, and the Steelers led 34–17 with ten minutes to go. But Vick exploded on the ground and in the air, racing the Falcons to set up Bob Christian's one-yard score, then a 40-yard Jay Feely field goal, and finally an 11-yard rushing touchdown himself with 32 seconds in regulation. Tied at 34 the Steelers clawed within range of a 48-yard field goal try; at this point Falcons receiver Brian Finneran was put onto special teams, an area he'd never played before; it proved decisive as Finneran blocked the kick. After an exchange of punts Maddox was picked off by Kevin Mathis, setting up a 56-yard Feely kick in the final seconds of overtime; this kick was blocked, and there was one second remaining. Maddox thus launched a desperation heave of some 60 yards; in traffic it was caught by Burress but he was ruled down at the one-foot line, and the game ended tied at 34, the first NFL tie since 1997. "It's a win for them," said a bitter Joey Porter. "To come back from 17 points down in the fourth quarter, it's a win for them, a loss for us."

Michael Vick's running had steadily become a major story in the league, and it became his signature play against the struggling Vikings. It was only the second game between the two clubs since the stunning NFC Title Game upset by the Falcons and the Vikings were smarting from a 3–8 record. The game lead tied or changed on every score; Daunte Culpepper ran in a touchdown and connected on a two-yard score to Hunter Goodwin, while the Falcons behind 227 total rushing yards scored on rushing touchdowns by Vick and Bob Christian. With the Falcons up 24–21 in the final seconds, the Vikings reached the Falcons 10; Culpepper handed off to Randy Moss and Moss turned and tossed the ball to Culpepper for an apparent touchdown, but the Vikings were flagged for illegal formation and Gary Anderson booted a 29-yarder. In overtime the Falcons got the ball first and just over two minutes in Vick dropped back to pass from the Vikings 46; with no receivers open he scrambled, then found a hole, cut back right, and raced in the winning touchdown (30–24 final), putting the Falcons at 8–3–1 and still within shot of the division title.

A loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following week hurt Atlanta's title chances and they effectively ended against the Seahawks. The Falcons raced to a 17–7 lead in the first half but the Seahawks clawed back and surged to a 21–17 lead after Willie Williams ran back a Falcons fumble in the third. Seattle surged to a 24–17 lead but Vick landed a 12-yard touchdcown into the hands of Trevor Gaylor with 17 seconds in regulation. The ensuing overtime lasted over ten minutes before Shaun Alexander burst from the Falcons 27 to finish it off at 30–24.

Week 17 of the 2002 season became a dizzying conundrum with multiple teams battling for a handful of playoff spots in both conferences. The Falcons needed a win over Cleveland or a Saints loss to Carolina to make the playoffs, while the 8–7 Browns needed a win and help around the AFC to make it to the club's first playoffs since the original incarnation of the Browns made it in 1994. The Falcons-Browns game and the fate of the two teams' playoff hopes became intertwined with New Orleans vs. Carolina, the New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins, and the New York Jets vs. Green Bay Packers. The Panthers embarrassed the Saints by forcing multiple turnovers and winning 10–6, while the Patriots erased a 24–13 gap to beat the Dolphins; in Cleveland the Falcons clawed to a 16–10 lead after three quarters, but Kelly Holcomb's touchdown to Kevin Johnson in the fourth was followed by a 64-yard William Green touchdown run. The Falcons raced to the Browns 1-yard line, but two straight runs by Warrick Dunn were stopped, and the Browns, winners 24–16, now had to wait to see if they would make the playoffs – the Jets got them in by hammering the Packers and thus eliminating Miami and New England, while Atlanta made it in on New Orleans' loss.

The Falcons traveled to Lambeau Field, where the Packers had never lost a playoff game in their history; thirteen playoff games had been played at Lambeau and the Packers had won all of them. That ended on a bitterly cold night as the Falcons upset the Packers. The Falcons scored first on a ten-yard Michael Vick pass to Shawn Jefferson, then Artie Ulmer blocked a Packers punt at their 1-yard line and scored. The Falcons defense bullied the Packers into three fumbles and Brett Favre's reputation for playoff recklessness led to two interceptions by Keion Carpenter. The Falcons rushed for 192 yards, 128 of them split between Vick and Warrick Dunn, as the Falcons raced to a 27–7 win, Green Bay's first ever home playoff loss.[3][4]

Standings[edit]

NFC South
W L T PCT DIV CONF PF PA STK
(2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12 4 0 .750 4–2 9–3 346 196 W1
(6) Atlanta Falcons 9 6 1 .594 4–2 7–5 402 314 L1
New Orleans Saints 9 7 0 .563 3–3 7–5 432 388 L3
Carolina Panthers 7 9 0 .438 1–5 4–8 258 302 W2

References[edit]