The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 45 is running back Lynn Cain.
Years played for Falcons: Lynn Cain played six years in Atlanta after being drafted out of Southern California in the fourth round (100th overall) in 1979. At USC he played in the backfield with Heisman Trophy winner Charles White. Cain missed most of his rookie season with a knee injury, but came back in 1980 and helped lead the Falcons to a 12-4 record and division title. Cain rushed for 914 yards and eight touchdowns, combining with William Andrews (1,308 yards, four TDs) for perhaps the most lethal backfield in the NFL that season. The Falcons, however, would go on to blow a 24-10 lead in the playoffs against Dallas, breaking the heart of a city.
His impact on the team: Cain helped pave the way for, at the time, Atlanta’s best season in franchise history winning 12 games in 1980. His versatility proved to be a great asset in coach Leeman Bennett’s offense. In 1981, Cain caught 55 balls out of the backfield for 421 yards and two scores. On the ground that season he totaled 542 yards on 156 carries for four touchdowns. The Falcons made the playoffs only twice while Cain was in the Atlanta backfield. In a strike-shortened 1982 season, Cain helped form a three-headed backfield consisting of himself, Andrews and rookie Gerald Riggs. The Falcons finished 5-4 and lost in the wild card round to Minnesota, 30-24. The addition of Riggs signified the eventual expendability of Cain. In his next two seasons he would rush for a combined 339 yards before playing a year in St. Louis and retiring after the 1985 season.
On the 1980 season: “I was always about being a team player, I learned that from the very beginning with my family and that is why William and I did well together. I stayed in the Falcons Inn up there (in Suwanee) and all I did was work out and get ready and make a commitment to the Falcons’ organization.”
On losing to the Cowboys in the playoffs: “The exciting part of the Dallas game is we had the opportunity to play at home and it was the biggest football game Atlanta had up to that time. The disappointment is that it came down to the last five minutes in the game and we had it. But you learn from your experiences. We just didn’t close it.”
On playing with William Andrews: “He was something. He never disappointed me and always amazed me. He had that type of intelligence to do stuff different with his body. He was deadly on defenses, running people over. He was like myself in college. He got injured and took a back seat to (James) Brooks and (Joe) Cribbs, but when he got to the pros he knew how to block. There wasn’t a moment when I doubted he was going to miss his block for me.”
Where he is now: Now 60, Cain resides in west Los Angeles with his wife, Lisa, and has three kids; son Lynell and daughters Desiree and Ariyan.
50: Chuck Smith
49: Michael Haynes
47: John Zook
46: Ken Reaves
45: Lynn Cain
44: Justin Blalock