For all of the historic moments that have taken place at the Georgia Dome, few have involved the home team.
Sure, there have been plenty of SEC championship football games. Georgia even won a couple. But neither set up national championship game appearances for the Bulldogs.
Basketball championships? There have been plenty, be it NCAA, SEC or ACC. But none produced an in-state team as its champion. Georgia won an SEC championship, but that was the year a tornado struck the dome and the tournament had to finish at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
Super Bowls? There were two. Dallas beat Buffalo 30-13 in Super Bowl XXVIII, while St. Louis edged Tennessee 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXIV in a game in which Tennessee fell just short of a game-tying touchdown as time expired. The Atlanta Falcons? Their one Super Bowl trip was set up by a road conference championship win. We’ll try to forget that whole 5 yards short thing from four years ago.
The Olympics? Well, Kerri Strug and Dream Team II did win for the home team. But 49 other states helped form that home team, so that’s just a wee bit different. Memorable, but different.
What’s missing from all of these championship moments? A defining championship moment for the home team.
On Sunday, in the final game to be played at the stadium that opened in 1992, the Falcons have one final chance to come up with such a defining championship moment: a home-field NFC championship victory.
A win over Green Bay would give Atlanta its biggest professional sports moment since the Braves closed out Cleveland at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to win the 1995 World Series. Much like that win gave that stadium one of its defining moments in its latter days, a Falcons win Sunday would send the Georgia Dome out on a high note as it makes way for Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Getting to the Super Bowl will be a challenging task, but it’s doable. The Falcons beat Green Bay 33-32 on Oct. 30 in a back-and-forth battle. The team led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers had its way with the Falcons before that in recent years, including a 48-21 playoff victory over the Falcons in 2010.
Do I have any bold predictions for Sunday? I don’t. Rodgers still has magic in his arm, as demonstrated by his effort last week in the Packers’ dramatic divisional playoff victory at Dallas. And while I expect Julio Jones to make every effort to battle through his toe injury, who knows how much his game-changing ability will be affected. This one could go either way, much like the regular-season game did.
If the Falcons can pull off the victory, the Georgia Dome will close with an incredible memory, one that will mean a bit more to Georgians than any of the previous championships played there.
And if that happens, that fancy-schmancy birds’ nest going up next door will have quite a reputation to follow.