The Atlanta Falcons are very popular in their hometown and the entire state of Georgia. They came into the National Football League as an expansion team in 1966 and a lot of excitement surrounded them. Many expansion teams suffer through hard times when they first start out, and the Falcons were no different.
That first season saw them go 3-11 through the 14 game regular season schedule. That was not the worst season ever in team history, that came the next year in 1967.
Norb Hecker returned as head coach of the Falcons for the team’s second year ever in pro football in 1967 after going 3-11 the year before. The starting quarterback for the team was Randy Johnson, though Terry Nofsinger and Steve Sloan would see a little bit of action that year too. Junior Coffey started at halfback and Tom Moore was the starting fullback. The receiving corps was made up of Tommy McDonald and Jerry Simmons, with Ray Ogden at tight end. Others catching balls that season were Bill Martin, Gary Barnes, and Taz Anderson. Cornerback Ken Reaves and linebacker Tommy Nobis were the anchors of the defense.
The season started out real bad, not because of losing to the Baltimore Colts in week one by just one touchdown (38-31), but because of having a five turnover day and giving up more than 500 yards of total offense. Week two would see the team take a turn for the worse, only gaining 97 total yards in the whole game and losing at San Francisco by the score of 38-7. The worlds game of the year though came n week three on October 1st when the Falcons visited the Green Bay Packers and were shutout 23-0. They gained just 58 total yards in the entire game that day. The losing streak continued the next week in their first home game of the year when they were defeated 38-7 by the Philadelphia Eagles.
A victory of sorts was achieved in week five when the losing streak finally stopped thanks to a 20-20 tie against the Washington Redskins. They lost the next week 24-3 to the Detroit Lions before coming home for the best game of the year. It was a week seven game against the Minnesota Vikings and though the Falcons appeared to be outplayed, they were able to hang on and win 21-20. The team returned though to it’s losing ways in week eight, nine, and ten by coming out on the short end to the Dallas Cowboys (37-7), the Baltimore Colts (49-7), and the Los Angeles Rams (31-3).
Some NFL teams seem to be late bloomers. They come on strong at the end of the year when other teams start to fold. The 1967 Atlanta Falcons were not one of those teams. They went on the road and lost a nail biter to the New Orleans Saints 27-24, a game they really could’ve won. They then lost 20-3 to the Los Angeles Rams in week 12 before ending the season with back to back losses against the San Francisco 49ers (34-28) and the Chicago Bears (23-14).
By the time the season came to a close, the Falcons had put up a win-loss record of 1-12-1, finishing in last place. They scored 175 points on the season, an average of 12.5 points per game, the lowest of any team in the league. They had also given up 422 points, or 30.1 points per game, the highest total in the entire NFL.
The next season would see the Falcons improve one whole game and finish 2-12 after a coaching change that brought in Pro Football Hall of Fame member Norm Van Brocklin. The team would not experience great success during the 1970’s, but they also wouldn’t go back to anything like that awful 1967 season either.