1. Falcons lose first game to Tampa Bay
The Falcons lost the season-opener and its first division game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-24. The team was only 1-4 in the red zone and there were several issues with tackling. It may have seemed at this point that there was no way the team could win the division, let alone make a trip to the Super Bowl, but things turned around.
2. Rookie Deion Jones’ homecoming in the Superdome
Rookie cornerback and New Orleans native Deion Jones made a statement in the Falcons game against the Saints. With the Saints in the red zone, Drew Brees threw a pass that was tipped by cornerback Brian Poole into the arms of Deion Jones, who ran it back for a 90-yard touchdown. The Falcons won that game 45-32.
3. Julio Jones sets franchise record with 300 receiving yards
Wide-receiver Julio Jones reminded the world that he is one of the best with a 300-yard receiving game against the Carolina Panthers. Jones hit 300 yards on his 12th catch of the game, a 75-yard catch and run touchdown from Matt Ryan. Jones shattered his own record of 249 yards set against Green Bay in 2014. The Falcons defeated the Panthers 48-33.
4. Falcons beat Denver on the road, proving they’re the real deal
A real test for the Falcons came in the fifth game of the season against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos touted one of the best defenses in the league, but the Falcons had an answer. The Falcons had some success running the ball and Matt Ryan went 15 of 28 for 267 yards and a touchdown. Atlanta defeated the defending Super Bowl champs 23-16.
5. No-call for pass interference on Richard Sherman
The Falcons lost a close game to the Seahawks following a controversial no-call on cornerback Richard Sherman. Down by two points with less than 2 minutes left in the game, Matt Ryan threw a deep pass to Julio Jones on 4th and 10. Sherman grabbed Jones’ arm, pulling him down and stopping from making the catch. No flags were thrown, so Seattle gained possession, effectively ending the game. The loss stung for Falcons fans, but the team would get its revenge in the playoffs.
6. Falcons win thriller against the Green Bay Packers
Following two tough losses to the Seahawks and the Chargers, the Falcons got back on track by rallying from behind to beat the Packers. Green Bay took a 32-26 lead with 3:58 remaining after the Falcons were caught with too many men on the field and the Packers were given a first down rather than having 4th and 1. Atlanta responded by driving down the field, and Matt Ryan hit Mohammed Sanu for an 11-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left. Matt Bryant’s extra point sealed the deal and the Falcons walked away with the win.
7. Falcons lose to Chiefs on failed 2-point conversion attempt
Chiefs safety and Atlanta native Eric Berry wreaked havoc on the Falcons in their week 13 matchup. Berry picked Ryan off twice, taking both to the house. The first time was on a 1st and 10 in the second quarter. The second, a devastating pick on a two-point conversion try. As tough as the 29-28 loss was, going into the Super Bowl, it was the last time the Falcons lost this season.
8. Matt Ryan plays like the MVP
Quarterback Matt Ryan made his case for MVP in a big way in 2016. Anchoring the highest-scoring offense in the NFL, he threw touchdown passes to 13 different receivers throughout the course of the season. “Matty Ice" set franchise records in passing yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and passer rating. His 117.1 rating was the fifth-highest in a season. Ryan is a top candidate for the Associated Press MVP Award, which was voted on before the playoffs and will be announced during Super Bowl week.
9. Falcons defeat Seahawks, earning trip to NFC Championship
The Falcons returned to the post season for the first time since 2012, defeating the Seahawks for a trip to the NFC Championship game. After the Seahawks drove down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive, Matt Ryan and the Falcons' high-scoring offense took over from there. The Falcons were aided by a holding penalty that wiped out a Devin Hester 80-yard punt return, and when the center stepped on Russell Wilson’s foot causing him to fall into the end zone for a safety. The Falcons took the win 36-20.
10. Atlanta sacks the Pack to head to Houston
In the final game at the Georgia Dome, the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Green Bay Packers 44-21 to earn a trip to the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns and rushed for one of his own. The Falcons defense shut out the Packers in the first half and rattled Aaron Rodgers throughout the game. The Falcons now head to their first Super Bowl since the 1998 season, and only the second in franchise history.