Countdown to Kickoff 2024: 103 days, 103 yards for Atlanta Falcons Alge Crumpler vs. New Orleans in 2004

The first game for the 2024 Atlanta Falcons is on September 8th, 2024, against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s over 100 days away. I don’t know about you, but that’s a long time to be waiting for the opening kickoff. So, to help bide the time, we revisit some of the good times through Atlanta’s history that corresponds with each day leading up to the time boot meets ball to start the 2024 NFL season.

The first number we have: 103.

To commemorate, let’s go back to November 28th, 2004. Atlanta was riding high behind the three-headed monster of Michael Vick, Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett and their energetic rookie head coach Jim Mora, Jr., as they entered this game in the Georgia Dome with an 8-2 record. On the other sideline were the hated New Orleans Saints, who were just awful, especially on the defensive side of the ball under fifth-year head coach Jim Haslett and their underwhelming 4-6 record.

Sizzling Start

After trading possessions to start the game, the Falcons gave the ball to Duckett on a crucial 4th-and-one to keep the drive alive and move Atlanta deeper into New Orleans territory at their 43-yard line. However, getting the first down was the easy part.

The Falcons needed a spark to get this offense going, and they found it as Vick found tight end Alge Crumpler for 24 yards to put them into the red zone. From there, Vick did what he did best. He dropped back, saw an opening on the left side of the defense, exploded through the opening, breaking two tackles with ease on the way to the game’s first points. Falcons lead 7-0

Throughout the rest of the first half, the Saints struggled to get anything going, and the Falcons, other than one three-and-out, continued to move that ball at will.

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A 32-yard bomb from Crumpler with just under three minutes to go set Atlanta up at their 47-yard line and in prime position to stretch their then 14-6 lead to a commanding 21-6 before the half.

But after using that momentum to get into the Saints’ red zone, two back-to-back Vick incompletions led to a missed 37-yard field goal from Jay Feely. No more points for the good guys, and they go into halftime with just a one-possession lead despite dominating for most of the first half.

That is until Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks throws an interception directly to Falcons cornerback Allen Rossum, who takes it to the New Orleans 26-yard line and sets Atlanta up to add three more to go into the half: 17-6.

Saints Continue Marching

Coming out of the half, the Saints played like they had nothing left to lose. Even though the drive ended in a missed field goal, New Orleans took the opening drive of the second half 53 yards on 11 plays, almost promising that if the Falcons gave them a shot like that again, they would capitalize.

After a Falcons three-and-out, the Saints made good on that promise, using an effective balance of Brooks’ arm and Deuce McCallister’s legs to get into the end zone for the first time and, after completing the two-point conversion to Joe Horn, the Saints had pulled within three: 17-14.

After another three-and-out, Atlanta wouldn’t see the ball again until there were under 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. After dominating the first half, the Falcons held onto the ball for a little over three-and-a-half minutes in the third quarter, exhausting their defense to where they were unable to keep the lead any further once Brooks found Horn again after tight end Ernie Conwell cleared out the underneath defenders for Horn.

After trading punts, the Falcons realized that time was running out. They had to start moving and fast. Duckett took the first play from the Atlanta 20 and burst up the middle for 25. Three plays later, on a third-and-long, Vick found 13 yards after a quick dropback to get Atlanta back into Saints territory.

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It felt like the Falcons would cruise back into the end zone until a Dunn fumble gave the ball back to New Orleans with just over three minutes to go. Mora used both timeouts and got the ball back after the two-minute warning at the Saints’ 47.

The Falcons needed a hero to emerge to pull out this victory.

As the drive started, the Falcons radio broadcast stated, almost as if given a premonition, “[Alge] Crumpler has been quiet in the second half, guys…”

Alge Crumpler crumples the Saints

Out the gate, Crumpler finds himself behind the second level of the New Orleans defense and is finally downed near the 20-yard line as he tries to hurdle Saints defensive back Mel Mitchell. Crumpler wasn’t quiet anymore.

Before that play, Crumpler was targeted six times and pulled in three of them for 83 yards. All six targets and three receptions came in the first half, but Crumpler wasn’t targeted in the third quarter.

With the game on the line, Crumpler delivered once, and he was about to again.

On the next play, Vick drops back and immediately feels pressure on his left side. As he evades the pocket as only Vick can, outside receiver Brian Finneran runs a rub route on Saints cornerback Jason Craft, who was already giving up roughly half a foot and almost 100 pounds to Crumpler, to begin with. Once Vick escapes the would-be defenders, Crumpler bolts up the sideline and Vick throws a jump ball where it is just Crumpler and Craft.

Guess who won.

With that, Atlanta took the lead 24-21 and never gave it back.

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Crumpler ended the game with four receptions on seven targets with 103 receiving yards and a touchdown.

The 2004-2005 Falcons would end up 11-5, earning a first-round bye in the playoffs. They pummeled the St. Louis Rams 47-17 before finally meeting their match against the Andy Reid-led Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Conference Championships.

As we go into the 2024 season and one of the major playmakers on the Falcons is yet again a tight end in fourth-year unicorn, Kyle Pitts, let this be a lesson to Kirk Cousins: When in doubt, find your tight end, he’s probably going to make a play for you. 

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