Georgia Dome’s Final NFL Game Has Super Bowl Significance

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ATLANTA (CNN) — The NFC Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons is Sunday (Jan. 22) and the noise level from football fans at the Georgia Dome likely will be at an all-time high.

It also will be the last time for Falcons fans to make that noise in the stadium.

After 25 years, the Falcons will say goodbye to the Georgia Dome, and the building’s final NFL game is a big one. The winner advances to Super Bowl LI in Houston — and that will be the Falcons.

“We couldn’t have been more excited to have officially the last game at the Dome,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said earlier this week. “Man, are we pumped to be a part of that.”
The Georgia Dome, which is the only facility in the world to host the Olympics, Super Bowl and Final Four, will be replaced by the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is under construction next door.

The Georgia Dome’s final event — Monster Jam — is scheduled for March 5. Later this year, the building will be demolished. In its place, current plans are for a surface parking lot and green space.

What will remain is a spot jam-packed full of memories.

The Georgia Dome opened in 1992, and it’s been the site of several moments in sports history.

It’s been the home of the Falcons, Georgia State University football, the annual Peach Bowl and the Southeastern Conference Football Championship. It also temporarily was the home court for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks in the late 1990s while nearby Philips Arena was being built.

The stadium housed two Super Bowls.

In 1994, the Buffalo Bills fell to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVIII, losing their fourth consecutive title game.

Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 had a dramatic finish, in which Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson was tackled just short of the goal line, giving the St. Louis Rams the victory.

One of the most iconic moments in US Olympic history took place at the Georgia Dome in 1996 when an injured Kerri Strug, later diagnosed with torn ligaments in her ankle, courageously nailed her second vault to help the American women win gymnastics team gold for the first time.

The 1996 Dream Team won gold in men’s basketball, while the American women’s basketball team won gold as well.

The Georgia Dome hosted three NCAA men’s Final Fours, with Maryland (2002), Florida (2007) and Louisville (2013) winning those national championships.

It also was the host for the 2003 NCAA women’s Final Four, with Connecticut winning the title.

Georgia Dome, 1992, has been the home to the Atlanta Falcons for 25 years. The dome will be demolished later this year. The new Mercedes-Benz Stadium is under construction. (Getty)

Georgia Dome, 1992, has been the home to the Atlanta Falcons for 25 years. The dome will be demolished later this year. The new Mercedes-Benz Stadium is under construction. (Getty)

Additionally, the history of the Georgia Dome is tied to two big natural disasters.

In January 2006, the Sugar Bowl, which is held annually at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, was moved to the Georgia Dome because of damage from Hurricane Katrina. In what was a de facto home game, the Georgia Bulldogs were stunned by the West Virginia Mountaineers, 38-35.

On March 14, 2008, a men’s college basketball game at the Georgia Dome that went into overtime might have saved lives. Alabama and Mississippi State were facing off in the SEC tournament, and a three-point shot by Crimson Tide guard Mykal Riley forced the extra period, keeping spectators from heading toward the exits. A tornado hit downtown Atlanta a few minutes later.

There was extensive damage in the area, including at the Georgia Dome, which forced that game and the rest of the tournament to finish at Georgia Tech’s Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

Sunday’s championship game kicked off as Atlanta was under a tornado watch. The watch, which included parts of Georgia, Florida and Alabama, followed several storm-related deaths, including 12 in Georgia, overnight Saturday (Jan. 21) ┬áinto Sunday (Jan. 22).

Final Falcons Chapter:

The Georgia Dome wasn’t the original home for the Falcons — the team played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium from 1966-1991 — but it has seen the most success.

Atlanta had 10 winning seasons and reached the playoffs nine times at the Georgia Dome. At Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which was demolished in 1997 and is now a parking lot, the Falcons reached the playoffs just four times and had six winning seasons.

The Georgia Dome’s NFL playoff history started on January 9, 1999, when the Falcons defeated the San Francisco 49ers 20-18 in the divisional playoff round. Atlanta would go on to advance to its only Super Bowl, losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.

Atlanta hosted the NFC Championship Game in 2013. But the home team missed out on reaching Super Bowl XLVII, with the Falcons losing to the 49ers, 28-24.

Last week, the Falcons, seeded No. 2 in the NFC, defeated the Seattle Seahawks 36-20 in the divisional round. When the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys were upset by the Packers a day later, that shifted the road to Super Bowl LI to go through Atlanta.

At the place that’s been their home for the last quarter century, the Falcons have now ended their tenure in the Georgia Dome with a historic win, Atlanta over Green Bay, 44-21.

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