The New York Giants head down to Georgia on Sunday to take on the Atlanta Falcons. The two teams are deadlocked in the all-time regular-season series, with 10 wins apiece. The one difference is their only postseason meeting, which the Giants, of course, won, in the first round of last season's playoffs. The Falcons entered the NFL in 1966, after the city petitioned both the AFL and NFL for a team, after Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was built. The AFL was all set to grant Atlanta a franchise, when Pete Rozelle swooped in and gave them an NFL team (the AFL then turned to Miami and the Dolphins were born). The Falcons got their name, by the way, from a high school teacher in a name-the-team contest. Here is a little Giants-Falcons history.
The Falcons began their debut season of 1966, by losing their first nine games (their first game in franchise history was played against the Los Angeles Rams). On Nov. 20, at Yankee Stadium, though, they notched their first-ever victory, at the expense of the Giants. One former Giant (running back Ernie Wheelwright) and two future Giants (quarterback Randy Johnson and running back Junior Coffey) played big roles in the Falcons' 27-16 win. Johnson hit Wheelwright with a nine-yard pass to open the scoring. Pete Gogolak got the Giants on the board, with a 24-yard field goal. Johnson then connected with Verne Burke and Wheelwright again for touchdown passes to give Atlanta a 20-3 cushion. Joe Morrison hauled in a three-yard touchdown pass from Giant quarterback Tom Kennedy (in his only NFL season), but the Falcons came right back with a Johnson three-yard touchdown run. Morrison's second touchdown, a 12-yard run, was too little, too late for New York. Johnson (15-for-25, 177 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) was a rookie that year, and spent five seasons with Atlanta before becoming a backup for the Giants for three years in the early '70s. Coffey led the Falcons in rushing that day (and for the season), with 64 yards, while Wheelwright gained 51 yards on the ground while also catching five passes. Former Rams defensive back Norb Hecker was the first Falcons coach, and in two-plus years he put up a 4-26-1 record.
The Giants recorded their first win over the Falcons the third time that the two teams faced each other, on Nov. 14, 1971, in Atlanta. The Giants went 4-10 that season, and this was their last win of the year, which was also Fran Tarkenton's final win as a Giant. His quarterback counterpart that afternoon was Bob Berry, who was his former and future backup with the Minnesota Vikings, and the Falcons' coach was Norm Van Brocklin, who clashed with Tarkenton when he was the coach of the Vikings, which led to both men's departure from Minnesota. The Falcons scored first in the game, on a Harmon Wages two-yard run, but Tarkenton connected with Bob Tucker on a 10-yard touchdown pass to tie things up. Atlanta kicker Bill Bell booted a 17-yard field goal and Berry hit Jim Mitchell with a 23-yard pass to give the Falcons a 17-7 lead. But Giant running back Bobby Duhon rushed for a score and Tarkenton ran one in himself for the winning points in the fourth quarter, to give the Giants a 21-17 victory. The Giants would lose their final five games of the season, though, and the Norm Snead era would follow.
After not qualifying for the playoffs since losing the NFL Championship Game in 1963, the Giants finally returned to the postseason in 1981, and one of their nine wins that season came against the Falcons. The 27-24 victory was their fifth win of the year and first of three overtime games they would play (losing to the Redskins and beating the Cowboys in the last game of the year). Phil Simms faced Steve Bartkowski and both would toss two touchdown passes, with Giant defensive back Mike Dennis, returning a fumble, and Lynn Cain of the Falcons scoring the other two touchdowns. Mike Luckhurst kicked a 29-yard field goal for Atlanta, while Joe Danelo (who led the league in field-goal attempts that year, with 38 -- making 24 of them) booted a 27-yarder and a 40-yarder in overtime to win it. Johnny Perkins had a big day for the Giants, with six catches for 126 yards, one touchdown and an 80-yard reception. New York would defeat the Eagles in the first round of the playoffs but lose to the 49ers the following week. The Falcons coach that season was Leeman Bennett, who would go on to coach the Buccaneers in 1985 and '86 to a 4-28 record, which is tied with Rich Kotite of the Jets for the worst coaching winning percentage of all-time.
The season that Atlanta went to their one and only Super Bowl, 1998, they defeated the Giants along the way, 34-20, on Oct. 11 at the Meadowlands. It was a close game at halftime, with the Falcons holding a slim 14-13 lead, but they blew it open with 20 straight points, before Kent Graham scored a five-yard rushing touchdown for the Giants. He and Danny Kanell split time in that game and were sacked a total of six times. Falcon Jamal Anderson rushed for 110 yards, while Chris Chandler threw a pair of touchdown passes without a pick. The Falcons were led by former Giants coach Dan Reeves, who lost to his other old team, the Denver Broncos, in the Super Bowl.
The biggest blowout in the series came in last season's playoff game, when the Giants won 24-2 at MetLife Stadium, on Jan. 8, 2012. The Falcons scored for the first and last time when Eli Manning was penalized for intentional grounding while in the end zone, giving Atlanta their two points. Manning (23-for-32, 277 yards) hit Hakeem Nicks (six catches, 115 yards) twice with touchdown passes, one of four yards and the other for 72. Mario Manningham also scored a touchdown, and Lawrence Tynes kicked a 22-yard field goal. The discrepancy in rushing yards told a big story, as the Giants gained 172 yards, while the Falcons were held to 64, with Michael Turner only running for 41. The Giants also had a pair of 21-point wins over Atlanta, with one coming in 1979 (24-3, which was Simms' sixth career start and fifth win) and the other in 2007 (31-10).
A 27-7 Falcons win on Nov. 9, 2003, at the Meadowlands, was the largest margin of victory for Atlanta in the series. The Falcons defeated the Cowboys on opening day that season, then lost their next seven games before beating the Giants, and finished with a 5-11 record. New York had topped the Jets in overtime in the previous week to give them a 4-4 record, but they lost the remainder of their games to finish at 4-12, which put an end to the Jim Fassel era. Warrick Dunn gained 178 rushing yards in the game, with a touchdown, while Kurt Kittner only completed nine of 23 passes for 65 yards. Kerry Collins threw for 202 yards, with two interceptions, and the only touchdown for the Giants was scored by Dorsey Levens, one of three he would tally in his one year with New York. Tiki Barber ran for 120 yards in that game.
The Giants have won the last four times they've faced the Falcons: A 2006 27-14 win (Barber gained 185 yards, while Dunn piled up 146), the 2007 blowout, a 2009 34-31 victory and last season's first-round playoff win.
The Giants' record vs. the Falcons by the decade: 1960s: 0-2; 1970s: 2-3; 1980s: 4-1; 1990s: 0-1; 2000s: 4-3; 2010s: 1-0.