When most Broncos fans think about the most memorable matchup versus the Atlanta Falcons, it's hard not to recall the game Denver played in Miami on January 31, 1999. It was John Elway's final game as a player, a game that made the Broncos back-to-back Super Bowl winners, a game played against former Broncos coach Dan Reeves.
When Minnesota Vikings kicker Gary Anderson missed a makeable field goal in the NFC Championship game, Falcons fans were excited to see their team on their way to their first Super Bowl. Since their founding in 1965 as an expansion team, they had never had this opportunity and it was, to date, the crowning moment for their franchise.... and the Denver Broncos crushed them.
Atlanta fans shouldn't have been surprised that Denver beat them so badly; losing to the Broncos was certainly nothing new. Going into that game, Denver led the series 6-3. Now, thirteen and a half years later, the Broncos enjoy a comfortable 9-4 lead.
...but where did the Broncos dominance over the Falcons begin? What happened in the very first matchup between the Falcons and the Denver Broncos? For that answer, we have to look back to October 18, 1970.The Broncos that welcomed the Falcons to Mile High Stadium on that chilly October afternoon was vastly different from the one that destroyed the Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII. Of the two teams, the Broncos had been in existence just five years longer than Atlanta. Since 1966, the Falcons (14-45) were one of the few teams in the NFL with a worse record than the Denver Broncos (20-39) going into that game.
Offensively, the game was, by today's standards, somewhat lackluster. Denver's future Hall-of-Fame RB Floyd Little could only muster 59 yards on 15 attempts. Backup running backs Fran Lynch and Clem Turner, on rushes of two yards or less, would score two of the three thouchdowns in the game. The last touchdown of the game came from QB Pete Liske when he connected with WR Jim Whalen on an 8 yard pass in the fourth quarter.The Falcons, on the other hand, would score only once in the 1st quarter - a 14 yard touchdown pass from QB Mike Donohoe to Bob Berry.
Defensively, the Broncos were far more impressive. They sacked Falcons Donohoe 7 times for a loss of 70 yards. Needless to say, when Donohe wasn't on his back contemplating his career choices while starring at the sky, he was most likely irritated with himself for throwing no less than four interceptions in the game - three of which to Broncos DB Paul Martha. Considering the field position that the Broncos must have enjoyed with all the opportunities the defense produced, one can only imagine how truly terrible the Broncos offense was at the time.
In the end, the Broncos won this first meeting with the Atlanta Falcons, 24-10. This Monday, the Broncos will square off with them again at a Mile High. This time our defense is vastly improved over the one that took the field in 1970. Here's hoping that Denver can create some of the same opportunities that team in 1970 did. Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense is more than capable of putting this one away in a more decisive manner if given the chance. As history has shown, the Broncos have beaten the Falcons before (many times) and they can do it again on Monday night.