The classic meeting was of course the NFC Championship ten seasons ago, but the last time Atlanta played Minnesota was in week 1 of last season... the debut of Bobby Petrino as Falcon head coach.
Our alleged offensive genius had known for most of the summer that he'd be without a particular left-handed QB at least for the first four weeks of the season, yet Coach Booby never altered his protection schemes.
With a left-hander taking the snaps, the blind side would have been in the hands of Todd Weiner and Kynan Forney, two veterans with considerable pass blocking skills. But with a right handed QB, blind side protection fell upon a first game rookie at left guard and the oldest man on the roster at left tackle.
Minnesota had a field day, logging SIX sacks on the way to an easy win. (But don't get big heads, Viking fans. The Jaguars outdid you the very next week, racking up SEVEN sacks.)
But the overhaul of Atlanta's front line was well underway even then, and a lot of good young prospects got valuable playing experience during the horror show of 2007. It's paying off this season, as the Falcon O-line is deeper than it has been in decades and is evolving into an elite unit.
The left side now features a rookie and a second year player. The right side consists of a pair of undrafted 27-year olds that bounced around the league, went to NFL Europe and spent time on practice squads before getting their chance at full time starting positions in Atlanta this season. Center Todd McClure is the veteran presence that holds the unit together.
This no-name group had some communications issues early on, but they have steadily improved all season. They have allowed only 14 sacks all season, only 7 in the last 10 games, and only 2 in the last 6 games. They're also powering a rushing attack that is tied for the league lead in yardage.
All the media attention will be on that classic from a decade ago, but only Keith Brooking remains from that 1998 roster. It will be interesting to see how the others, especially those on the offensive line, fare when they return to the scene of that first-week disaster from last season.