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1986 Atlanta Falcons season

1986 Atlanta Falcons season
Head coach Dan Henning
Home field Fulton County Stadium
Record 7–8–1
Division place 3rd NFC West
Playoff finish did not qualify
Previous season Next season
< 1985 1987 >

The 1986 Atlanta Falcons season was the franchise's 21st season in the National Football League (NFL). It began with moderate expectations.[1] Head coach Dan Henning was going into his fourth year having failed to post a record above .500 in any of his first three seasons. Local media, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saw it as Henning's last chance to save his head coaching job.[2] Atlanta entered the season led by, among others, Gerald Riggs,[3] Scott Case, Bill Fralic and Jeff VanNote. David Archer was the starting quarterback heading into the season.[4]


NFL Draft

Main article: 1986 NFL Draft
1986 Atlanta Falcons draft
Round Pick Player Position College Notes
1 2 Tony Casillas  Defensive tackle Oklahoma
1 17 Tim Green  Linebacker Syracuse
6 154 Floyd Dixon  Wide receiver Stephen F. Austin
6 159 Keith Williams  Wide receiver Missouri State
8 197 Kevin Hudgens  Defensive end Idaho State
9 224 Kevin Starks  Tight end Minnesota
10 252 Tony Baker  Running back East Carolina
11 280 Chris Hegg  Quarterback Truman State
12 308 Steve Griffin  Wide receiver Purdue
      Made roster  




1986 Atlanta Falcons staff
Front office
  • Chairman of the Board – Rankin M. Smith, Sr.
  • President – Rankin M. Smith, Jr.
  • Executive Vice President – Taylor Smith
  • Director of Player Personnel – Tom Braatz
  • Director of Pro Personnel – Bill Jobko
  • Assistant for Research and Development – Joe Madden

Head coaches

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches

Special teams coaches

Strength and conditioning

  • Strength and Conditioning – George Dostal

Regular season

Season summary

The team started with an impressive 4–0 start, beating their NFC West rivals, the New Orleans Saints, 31–10 in the season opener. They opened at home in Atlanta with a 33–13 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Then, after a thrilling 37–35 win in Dallas, they beat the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23–20. The first loss came to the Philadelphia Eagles, whose strong defense coached by Buddy Ryan took care of the Falcons 16–0. Henning didn't let the loss affect his team as they beat the playoff bound Los Angeles Rams 26–14. Things seemed to be going great for the team as they were able to tie the powerhouse San Francisco 49ers 10–10. Following the tie to the 49ers, a five-game losing streak derailed the season, starting with a 14–7 loss to the Rams, then a 25–17 loss to the defending AFC champion New England Patriots. They returned home to face the 8–1 New York Jets, where they lost 28–14 to drop them to 5–4–1. The next week a 13–10 loss to the Chicago Bears knocked them into last place in the division. Their last loss of the streak was a 20–0 loss to the 49ers. The now 5–6–1 Falcons ended their winless streak against the Miami Dolphins in a 20–14 victory. The nadir of the season came in a 28–23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, who started the year 0–13, and was the Colts' first win of the year. By that time, the Falcons were out of the playoff picture with Los Angeles and San Francisco already in. The Falcons dropped their last home game 14–9 to New Orleans. They concluded their season with a 20–6 victory against the Detroit Lions.


Week Date Opponent Result Game site Attendance
1 1986-09-07 at New Orleans Saints W 31–10 Louisiana Superdome
2 1986-09-14 St. Louis Cardinals W 33–13 Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
3 1986-09-21 at Dallas Cowboys W 37–35 Texas Stadium
4 1986-09-28 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 23–20 Tampa Stadium
5 1986-10-05 Philadelphia Eagles L 0–16 Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
6 1986-10-12 Los Angeles Rams W 26–14 Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
7 1986-10-19 San Francisco 49ers T 10–10 Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
8 1986-10-26 at Los Angeles Rams L 7–14 Anaheim Stadium
9 1986-11-02 at New England Patriots L 17–25 Sullivan Stadium
10 1986-11-09 New York Jets L 14–28 Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
11 1986-11-16 Chicago Bears L 10–13 Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
12 1986-11-23 at San Francisco 49ers L 0–20 Candlestick Park
13 1986-11-30 at Miami Dolphins W 20–14 Miami Orange Bowl
14 1986-12-07 Indianapolis Colts L 23–28 Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
15 1986-12-14 New Orleans Saints L 9–14 Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
16 1986-12-21 at Detroit Lions W 20–6 Pontiac Silverdome


NFC West
San Francisco 49ers(3) 10 5 1 .656 3–2–1 6–5–1 374 247 W3
Los Angeles Rams(5) 10 6 0 .625 3–3 8–4 309 267 L2
Atlanta Falcons 7 8 1 .469 2–3–1 6–5–1 280 280 W1
New Orleans Saints 7 9 0 .483 3–3 6–6 288 287 L1

Rankings for 1986 season

Atlanta was 6th in scoring defense allowing 280 points, 21st in scoring offense scoring 280 points. Passing; 246 completions of 452 attempts for 3046 yards. David Archer threw for 10 of the teams 14 passing touchdowns, Turk Schonert threw the other four. Archer had nine of the teams 17 interceptions, and Schonert was picked the other eight times. The team rushed for 12 touchdowns nine of which came from Gerald Riggs, one from Schonert, one from William Andrews, one Cliff Austin.


  1. ^ "Picking the Falcons to go 9–7, starting with a win over the Saints". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 7 Sep 1986. 
  2. ^ "Falcons hoping for fast start in New Orleans opener". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 7 Sep 1986. 
  3. ^ "Riggs makes backfield whole again". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 5 Sep 1986. 
  4. ^ "Archer reports bruised right shoulder feeling 'fair'". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 3 Sep 1986. 
  5. ^ "1986 Atlanta Falcons Draftees". Retrieved December 15, 2013. 

External links