If there was any doubt there isn’t any longer. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons aid goodbye in fine fashion Sunday as they soundly defeated the Green Bay Packers 44-21 to win the NFC title and head to the Super Bowl in Houston in two weeks.
Playing in the last game ever at the Georgia Dome as the Falcons move down the street to their new home, Mercedes Benz Stadium, Ryan the leading candidate for league MVP could not of had a better day as a sendoff. Ryan threw for four touchdowns, 392 yards and ran for another, as there was never any doubt about the outcome midway through the second quarter.
The Falcons entered the playoffs with the highest scoring offense in the league and the eighth most prolific in league history also were considered long shots to make it primarily because of defense and the fact Ryan’s never won the “big one”. The Falcons’ offense fired on all cylinders in the post season averaging 40 points a game and the defense as well gave up an average of less than 19 a game.
From the opening kickoff the Falcons were definitely on a mission. The Falcons took 12 plays to travel 80 yards with Ryan completing 6-of-8 passes finishing the drive off with a two-yard stroke to Mohammed Sanu at the 8:24 mark.
The Packers had their chances in the first quarter but squandered them. First Mason Crosby missed an easy field goal on the next drive and then on their next possession Aaron Ripkowski fumbled inside the Atlanta five-yard line that Atlanta was able to eventually turn into three points with 14 second remaining in the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter Ryan ran the ball in from 14 yards and actually led all rushers at half with 23 yards. Aaron Rodgers on the other side of the ball was pressured all day, sacked twice, hurried continuously and threw one interception.
And with under a minute to go in the half Ryan hit Julio Jones from three yards out who had an acrobatic catch and managed to somehow keep both fee inbounds. Lo and behold the underdog were ahead 24-0 at the half.
Were the Falcons in for a second half letdown like against the 49ers in 2013? That’s what the pundits wanted to know and were expecting, but it wasn’t so.
Green Bay was forced into a three-and-out after taking the second half kickoff punting to the Falcons. On Atlanta’s second play from scrimmage Ryan hit Jones over the middle who fought off two defenders on the sideline and waltzed into the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown reception and a 31-0 lead.
That was all she wrote or the Packers. Sure, they scored 21 points but Atlanta kept stride putting up 44 points on the day.
Julio Jones had another groundbreaking game as he fell jut short of the NFC Championship Game record for receiving yards. The Falcons go-to receiver hauled in nine Matt Ryan passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
The running game, while not dominant broke off runs when needed to give Ryan’s arm a rest as Atlanta ran for 101 yards to compliment Ryan’s 392 passing yards.
Defense once again continues to improve. For the second week in a row they have tortured former Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks holding both to below average stats. Aaron Rodgers was on the run all day, hurried and battered. The frustration really showed when he was flagged for a facemask penalty after colliding with Robert Alford on the sidelines late in the game. Rodgers did end up throwing three touchdown passes but the game was already out of hand before he threw his first and Atlanta answered back with Ryan’s fourth touchdown pass and Tevin Coleman’s three-yard run.
If there is any doubt that the league MVP is Ryan put that to rest. His QB rating in the championship game was 139.4, almost 25 points higher than his season average that was already head and shoulders above any other QB in the league. Ryan has now thrown for three or more touchdowns in four consecutive playoff games another NFL record. This post season Ryan has thrown seven touchdown passes ran for another and has not thrown an interception since their loss to Kansas City.
The Falcons gave the Georgia Dome a grand sendoff in the last game ever to be played there. The Dome will soon be razed as the Falcons move down the street to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Falcons have called the Dome home since 1992. The Falcons’ regular season record at the Dome was 108-83 and their postseason record was 5-3. The Dome was a much more friendly home than Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. Before moving to the Dome the Falcons had lost well over 100 more games than they won. Right now their total won-loss record is 351-449.
The Falcons have two weeks before they play in only their second Super Bowl in franchise history when they take on the New England Patriots in Houston. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30pm and the game will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal
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