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Change of fortune

Chandler standing proud, tall on way to Super Bowl

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Posted: Sunday January 17, 1999 11:27 PM

  Grace under pressure: Chandler outdueled Randall Cunnigham, throwing for 340 yards and three touchdowns Matthew Stockman/Allsport

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- So many times during his injury-plagued career, Chris Chandler found himself crumpled on the turf.

But the Atlanta Falcons quarterback was standing tall and proud Sunday. After 11 years and six teams, he's going to the Super Bowl.

"I had to overcome a lot and I never gave up, despite some poor years," Chandler said after guiding the Falcons to a 30-27 overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings. "Now, I find myself in a good situation and it's very rewarding."

The 33-year-old Chandler bounced from Indianapolis to Tampa Bay to Phoenix to Los Angeles to Houston -- never staying anywhere for more than a couple of years -- before the Falcons acquired him before the 1997 season for a couple of low-round draft picks.

Even coach Dan Reeves has admitted that he didn't know how good a quarterback he was getting, and how could he? Chandler rarely managed to play a full season because of injuries, earning the nickname "Chris Chandelier."

On Sunday, they should have called him John Elway. Chandler directed an eight-play, 71-yard drive that tied the game at 27 with 49 seconds remaining. He completed four of six passes for 56 yards and also had a 9-yard run that left him briefly hobbled with a shin injury.

"It wasn't anything major," said Chandler, who shook off the pain and his past. Three plays later, he threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Terance Mathis for the tying touchdown.

In overtime, Chandler and the Falcons put together another memorable drive after taking over at the Atlanta 9, moving 70 yards in 10 plays to set up Morten Andersen's game-winning, 38-yard field goal. Chandler completed all three of his passes, accounting for 47 yards, and had another big run for 6 yards.

"It was very special the way we won that football game," said Chandler, who has been named to the Pro Bowl twice since coming to Atlanta. "You look back at the way our season went and this game symbolizes our season. We had to overcome a lot of things to win."

With Jamal Anderson held to 67 yards on 23 carries, it fell to Chandler to bail out the Falcons from a 20-7 deficit. He completed 27 of 43 passes for 340 yards, including three touchdown passes.

"What we do running the ball is important," Chandler said, "but it can't be done without our passing game. We've proven all season long that we can throw the ball, we can make some big plays. We did that today."

Reeves, who coached Elway in Denver, said few quarterbacks could have duplicated Chandler's performance against the Vikings.

"I told him after we went down there and tied the score, that tanks right up there with any of the big-time quarterbacks," the coach said. "He's done it with the pressure on him, made some big-time throws, did it after being hurt from the scramble, hung in there."

Before the season, the Falcons signed Chandler to a four-year, $25 million contract extension that would keep him in Atlanta through 2002.

"I told him we were going to stick our neck out to sign him because I thought he could win a Super Bowl for us," Reeves said. "Now, he's one game away from doing that, and I think he's good enough to do it."

But first, Chandler has other concerns. His wife, Diane, the daughter of ex-quarterback John Brodie, is expected to give birth to the couple's third child any day now.

Then, it's off to Miami.

 
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