Atlanta Falcons Blog

Atlanta Falcons blog by D. Orlando Ledbetter, the pro football and Atlanta Falcons reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Getting ready to say good bye to the Georgia Dome

Here are the Georgia Dome recollections of Charley Taylor, the Falcons former public relations director from 1987 to 1999.

He recently retired as Georgia State's assistant athletic director/communications.

The Falcons are set to face the San Francisco 49ers today in the next-to-last regular season NFL game at the Georgia Dome. The finale against the New Orleans Saints is set for Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017.

The Falcons are scheduled to open play in the $1.6 billion Mercedes Benz Stadium next season.

Here's what Taylor shared with us:

First Game(s) in Georgia Dome, 1992

 The Grand Opening (Debut) was the Sunday, Aug. 23 Preseason Game vs. Philadelphia

 The first regular season game was on Sunday, Sept. 6 vs. New York Jets

--Actual attendance for the Aug. 23 debut was 66,834 turnstile count for preseason. Each fan received a commemorative pin and ticket.

--There was an official on-field ribbon cutting with NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Rankin Sr. and Taylor Smith.

--The hoopla started in pre-game with M.C. Hammer performing live.

--Legendary John Denver performed the first National Anthem.

--Boxing voice Michael Buffer then gave his trademark “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” call on field.

--ABC-TV broadcast with Brent Musberger and Dick Vermeil.

--The Halftime Show was full of Georgia country music stars like Travis Tritt, Tricia Yearwood, Alan Jackson, Doug Stone and T. Graham Brown.

--Per usual, every “dignitary” from Governor, Mayor, Congressmen, etc. all showed up to be noticed.

--The game: Atlanta defeated Philadelphia 20-10 under coach Jerry Glanville.

--Philly won the toss and drove for a field goal for the first points scored in the Dome preseason.

--Atlanta’s first actual play from scrimmage was then a 76-yard TD pass from 1991 Pro Bowl QB Chris Miler to Olympic-trial speedster WR Michael Haynes. It got loud in the Dome immediately.

--Atlanta kept the starters in long enough to score 20 points on its four first possessions (two TDs and two FG’s) and then played reserves per usual NFL games.

--To start the regular season, the turnstile count vs. the Jets on Sept. 6 was 65,585. I never put stock in the turnstiles at the four main gates, as there wasn’t a turnstile down at Gate E for suite holders at the beginning. And, do the 200-plus in the press box count? Just sayin’. For an extra 25 cents in person, I can tell you why there is a circular staircase in the press box.

--Atlanta’s first official play in the Dome regular season was a 32-yard run from rookie first round pick Tony Smith (part of the Brett Favre trade).

--Atlanta scored 17 points in the first quarter en route to the 17-0 lead after one and 20-17 win.

--Falcon kicker Norm Johnson’s 25-yard FG were the first regular season points in Dome history.

--Chris Miller connected with WR Michael Haynes for two touchdowns in the first quarter for the first touchdowns in Dome history.

--Atlanta’s first defensive play in the dome was a fumble recovery off a hit on QB Browning Nagle. (Don’t have the play-by-play to know which Falcon it was.)

--Debuting in that game for the Falcons were first-round picks Bob Whitfield (7th), Tony Smith (19th) and Chuck Smith (51st pick). Atlanta’s QBs were Miller, Billy Joe Tolliver and Wade Wilson.

--Trivia question: perhaps the “most famous” athlete from that game, still known to this day, is literally recognized around the world, However, he was a back-up DT who has gone on to worldwide fame as a professional wrestler: Bill Goldberg. Google can tell you all of Goldberg’s famous accomplishments and he is still active today as a wrestler. He’s earned tens of millions of dollars. Google his wrestling entrance or other events for his showmanship.

--OK, some guy named Deion Sanders has done pretty well in the “most famous” department, too, as a player and commentator and is worth millions and millions as well. WR Andre Rison went on to “fame” when “Left Eye” Lopez burnt down his Country Club of the South mansion.

--Second trivia question: Atlanta’s all-time leading WR in catches and yards played in that first

--Georgia Dome regular season game. But, it wasn’t for Atlanta. It was Jets’ WR Terance Mathis, who would later sign as a free agent in 1994 with the Falcons and go on to catch his 573 passes until Roddy White finally broke his record. The Jets QB (Browning Nagle) also later came to play with the Falcons.

--See the players from the 1991 final game notes to see who else went on to good NFL careersand post-season successes.

--Alas, despite the winning starts and crowd excitement, the Falcons defense would go on to be the worst in the NFL that year, allowing 414 points, as the team finished 6-10.

Atlanta Falcons final season at Atlanta/Fulton County Stadium (1991)

--Team was coached by 2nd-year head coach Jerry Glanville, Off. Coord. June Jones

--Team was 10-6, made playoffs as Wild Card (one game behind New Orleans)

--Team beat New Orleans in Playoffs on road, but lost at NFC champ Washington in second Round.

--Team won Final 5 games at Fulton County Stadium, last losing in Atlanta on Sept. 29 to first place New Orleans.

--The final 5 wins were over LA Rams (31-14), S.F. 49ers (17-14), Tampa Bay (43-7), Green Bay (35-31) and Seattle (26-13). Final home season was 6-2.

--Final home game was played Dec. 15, 1991 on 42-degree day against Seattle...First points in the 26-13 were scored by the defense (S Brian Jordan tackled Kelly Stouffer in end zone)...Last Falcons TD was scored by Michael Haynes on 30-yard pass from Chris Miller...Tim McKyer had an interception and he pitched ball to Deion Sanders who ran final 48 yards for defensive TD...Haynes would go on to later score the game-winning TD at New Orleans in the playoffs and then score the 1st touchdown in the Georgia Dome in 1992...Georgia grad John Kasay kicked two field goals for Seattle.

--Final home game sideline guests included Evander Holyfield, Wayne Newton and Diamond Rio.

--That 1991 team was the “Too Legit To Quit” squad with M.C. Hammer.

1991 Roster Fun Facts:

  • Team had two future Hall of Famers (Deion Sanders and Brett Favre)

  • Team had two future Major League Baseball players (Deion and Brian Jordan). That’s

probably the only time that’s happened in NFL history.

  • Team had three future media pros (Tim Green, Jamie Dukes and even Harper Le Bel who has broadcast all home Georgia State football games)

  • Team had two future Ring of Honor players at Dome (Jessie Tuggle and Mike Kenn)

  • Team had future golfer who made hundreds of thousands in prize money (Billy Joe Tolliver)

  • Four players were voted to the Pro Bowl: Chris Miller, Andre Rison, Chris Hinton and

Deion Sanders.

--1991 OFFENSE was the key as DEFENSE ranked only No. 20 in the league.

--24-year old Chris Miller earned the Pro Bowl, despite missing two starts. Back-up was Tolliver and third teamer was rookie Brett Favre...Team’s offense (called the Red Gun) was No. 3 in NFL in TD passes (30) No. 5 in NFL in scoring, No. 6 in passing yards and No. 8 in total offense...Miller was No. 3 TDs (26) and No. 10 in yards (3,103).

--WR Michael Haynes led the NFL in yards per catch (22.4) with 11 TDs (No. 4 NFL) on his 50 catches. He had won NFL Fastest Man contest...Rison had 81 catches (No. 5 NFL) for 976 yards and was tied No. 2 NFL with 12 TD catches...Rookie Mike Prichard (first rounder at No. 13) also had 50 catches to give ATL three receivers with 50 or more receptions.

--Running back was a three-headed thousand yard trio with each having about the same number of carries: Steve Broussard (99-349), Erric Pegram (101-449) and Mike Rozier (96-361) to add up to 1,159 yards.

The AJC's D. Orlando Ledbetter and Maria Marino discuss Julio Jones' status for week 15 and what the Falcons need to tighten up as they battle for a postseason berth.

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.