1977 Atlanta Falcons season
The 1977 Atlanta Falcons season was the team's 12th year in the National Football League. The team finished the season 7–7, and did not make the NFL's postseason.
Although the Falcons' offense struggled, the defense was dominant. The Falcons' 129 points allowed not only led the league, but established an all-time NFL record for fewest points allowed in a 14-game NFL season. Atlanta's 3,242 total yards allowed were second-fewest in the league, and the Falcons' 1,384 passing yards allowed was by far the best in the NFL in 1977.
Football analytics site Cold Hard Football Facts call the 1977 Falcons "the stingiest defense of the Super Bowl Era. In fact, it was the stingiest defense since World War II. Atlanta surrendered just 9.2 PPG, or a total of 129 points in the 14-game season. For a little perspective: the 2012 Bills gave up 131 points in their first four games. That unit was truly a no-name defense at its finest: despite its status as the stingiest defense since World War II, the 1977 Falcons sent only two defenders to the Pro Bowl: cornerback Rolland Lawrence and defensive end Claude Humphrey. [...] It was truly a one-hit wonder of a unit: the 1976 Falcons possessed one of the worst defenses in the league (22.3 PPG); and it largely fell apart in 1978 (18.1 PPG). The most famous personality on the 1977 Falcons was not a player but defensive assistant Jerry Glanville, who installed in a swarming style of play in Atlanta remembered as the "Grits Blitz" defense."
|| September 18, 1977
|| Los Angeles Rams
|| W 17–6 Falcons pulled a stunning upset and served notice they were an improved team, especially on defense. After an early TD pass by the Rams from "Broadway" Joe Namath to Harold Jackson, it was all Falcons as QB Scott Hunter directed a ball control offense. Hunter and Haskel Stanback both ran for TD's.
|| September 25, 1977
|| at Washington Redskins
|| L 10–6
|| October 2, 1977
|| New York Giants
|| W 17–3 In a dominant performance, the Falcons rolled up 295 yards of total offense and held the Giants to seven pass completions. Defense also had nine sacks and two interceptions. FB Monroe Eley scored and backup QB Kim McQuilken had a TD pass.
|| October 9, 1977
|| at San Francisco 49ers
|| W 7–0 The two teams slugged along in a scoreless tie until the third period. LB Edgar Fields blocked a punt and WR Billy Ryckman recovered at the 49er 39. On the very next play, QB Hunter threw a bomb that was tipped by 49er QB Mel Phillips into the hands of WR Alfred Jenkins in the end zone for the game's only score.
|| October 16, 1977
|| at Buffalo Bills
|| L 3–0
|| October 23, 1977
|| at Chicago Bears
|| W 16–10 Falcons defense picked off three passes and shut down superstar Walter Payton, holding him to 69 yards rushing. Bears' only TD came on a late kickoff return TD by Brian Baschnagel.
|| October 30, 1977
|| Minnesota Vikings
|| L 14–7 Defense gave Fran Tarkenton all he could handle, but he threw for two touchdowns, including the game-winner to TE Bob Tucker late in the fourth quarter.
|| November 6, 1977
|| San Francisco 49ers
|| L 10–3 Steve Bartkowski returned from injury and made his first start of the season, but was treated very rudely at home by the opposing team. 49ers sacked Bartkowski seven times and intercepted 2 passes. Wilbur Jackson scored the only TD on a 2-yard run, the first rushing TD allowed by the Falcons all season. 49ers won despite only 97 yards of total offense.
|| November 13, 1977
|| Detroit Lions
|| W 17–6 Defense ruled the day once again for the Falcons as LB's Ralph Ortega and Robert Pennywell scored defensive TD's in the final period for the final margin.
|| November 20, 1977
|| at New Orleans Saints
|| L 21–20 Falcons stormed out to a 20-7 halftime lead as Steve Bartkowski had a TD pass to Alfred Jenkins and CB Rick Byas returned an interception for another TD. However, Archie Manning returned from injury and came off the bench to throw two TD passes to TE Henry Childs and give the Saints the win.
|| November 27, 1977
|| at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|| W 17–0 Defense continued to be dominant and turned in perhaps its finest performance of the season, holding the hapless Bucs to 78 total yards of offense and intercepting 4 passes. Stanback had 2 1-yard TD runs.
|| December 4, 1977
|| New England Patriots
|| L 16–10 Falcons picked off Steve Grogan three times, but Pats' defense did better, picking off Steve Bartkowski four times and sacking him eight. Still, Falcons nearly pulled off the upset at home, leading 10-9 late in the 4th until Grogan hit Stanley Morgan on a 33-yard TD to win it.
|| December 11, 1977
|| at Los Angeles Rams
|| L 23–7 Rams avenged their season-opening loss at home by rolling up 386 yards of total offense. Pat Haden ran for a TD and passed for another and Lawrence McCutcheon had 152 yards on the ground.
|| December 18, 1977
|| New Orleans Saints
|| W 35–7 Falcons put a perfect end to a great season by dominating the Saints at home. Steve Bartkowski threw for two touchdowns and Haskel Stanback ran for two more in the rout.
Awards and records
- Jerry Glanville's "Grits Blitz" defense set the NFL record for fewest points allowed per game since the AFL-NFL Merger (129 points on a 14-game schedule, an average of 9 points per game).