- Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is the last of three nominations for the most memorable play in Atlanta Falcons' history. The previous two days featured Morten Anderson's game-winning overtime field goal in the 1998 NFC Championship Game that sent the Falcons to the Super Bowl and Michael Vick's 46-yard touchdown run in overtime against the Vikings in 2002. Please vote for your choice as the Falcons' most memorable play.
Score: Falcons 20, Saints 17
Date: Nov. 12, 1978 Site: Louisiana Superdome
They referred to the play as Big Ben Right.
With 19 seconds left in regulation and the Falcons trailing the Saints 17-13, quarterback Steve Bartkowski rallied his troops for the last-ditch effort. It ended up being a Hail Mary with a twist as the Falcons broke the huddle from their own 43-yard line.
Bartkowski sailed a ball deep down the right sideline where receiver Wallace Francis batted it in the air, as planned. The tipped ball was corralled by Alfred Jackson, who sprinted the final 10 yards for the 57-yard score.
"My job was to tip the ball up and keep it alive," Francis told the media afterward. "I was never the intended receiver."
"When he tipped it, I was right behind it," Jackson added. "I followed right behind the crowd to get it when somebody tipped it."
The miraculous 57-yard touchdown play helped Bartkowski best Saints quarterback Archie Manning on that day. The Falcons went on to finish 9-7 and made the playoffs for the first time in team history, defeating Philadelphia (14-13) in the NFC wild-card game before losing to Dallas (27-20) in the divisional playoff.
Not often do you see a game won in such a dramatic fashion. That's why Big Ben Right qualifies as one of the best plays in Falcons history.
The Falcons trailed 17-6 with 2 minutes, 23 seconds left in the game. Big Ben Right was preceded by an 80-yard touchdown drive engineered by Bartkowski, ending in a 1-yard touchdown run by Haskel Stanback.
That long drive was a gem in itself. But the game-winning play left a lasting memory.