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Destiny and dancing

By Dan Rosen
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 29, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Dan Rosen

The Atlanta Falcons were 7-9 a year ago, they didn't make the playoffs and the only thing they had going for them was cool uniforms and a big-name coach.

Cool uniforms won't help you win, but a big-name coach, now that is a different story.

Dan Reeves took a trip to Atlanta after leaving New York, and a few days later he inherited a proven, but injury prone quarterback in Chris Chandler, an unproven running back in Jamal Anderson, two wideouts that had potential to be stars but just didn't know it in Tony Martin and Terence Mathis, and a defense in disarray.

It took him a year, but he showed this bunch of Dirty Birds they can dance to the sweet sounds of victory if they just played to their potential.

Ray Buchanan, Eugene Robinson and Jessie Tuggle anchor a defense that plays well enough to win, while Chandler, Anderson, Martin, Mathis and tight end O.J. Santiago provide the spark on offense.

Week after week they left the game flapping their wings with a higher number in the win column than the week before. Then horror struck when Reeves had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery, leaving fans to believe the run was over and the dancing would stop.

But those Falcons just wouldn't give up, making it to the playoffs with a bye.

The Falcons played the 'Niners in the NFC divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome, and they again squeaked out a victory 20-18 behind the guidance of defensive coordinator Rich Brooks.

On to another dome to face the Minnesota Vikings, whom were already making arrangements for a ticker-tape parade in Minneapolis. Reeves was back and hoping his heart could withstand the noise and emotions in Minnesota - and his team was again dancing in a dome, this time on a podium with the NFC Championship trophy in hand.

How did they do it? With persistence on offense and defense.

They kept coming at the Vikings with everything they had. They didn't take away the running game, they didn't hurt Randy Moss, Chris Carter or Randall Cunningham and they didn't run the ball down the throats of the defense with Anderson.

They used what they had, a good quarterback and smart play calling.

It may be conceivable that the Broncos could be pouring the Gatorade on Mike Shanahan when the final whistle blows, but the Falcons have just as much of a shot to stain Reeves' suit.

The Falcons will have to play the best game of the year to beat Denver, but with destiny on their side, Reeves will win his first Super Bowl as a head coach.

Atlanta 31, Denver 27.

Dan Rosen can be reached at