NFL 

Falcons close Georgia Dome in blowout fashion

 

The versatility of the Falcons’ offense was on full display for the opening drive of the game as Matt Ryan and company marched down the field with relative ease. It was a 13-play, 80-yard drive that took 6:36. Green Bay’s defense has played short-handed throughout the playoffs and Ryan was able to exploit the secondary the entire drive. Ryan flipped the ball underhanded to Mohamed Sanu in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown pass to go up 7-0. This marked the eighth consecutive game that Atlanta has scored a touchdown on their opening drive and they never looked back.

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Green Bay was unable to get in a rhythm offensively from the start. Facing a third down in Falcons territory, linebacker Deion Jones hit Aaron Rodgers as he was throwing and forced an incompletion to set up a 41-yard Mason Crosby field goal attempt. The kick was no good and Atlanta’s offense immediately went downfield, this time in 12 plays.  Penalties derailed the Falcons’ drive, they had to settle for a field goal, giving them a 10-0.  

It wasn’t all about Atlanta’s offense, as their defense forced two takeaways in the first half. Defensive back Jalen Collins forced and recovered an Aaron Ripkowski fumble which resulted in a touchback ending Green Bay’s scoring opportunity. Prior to that moment, the Packers were in the midst of a  good drive which saw Randall Cobb catching two passes for 39 yards. To make matters worse, the Falcons responded with an 80-yard drive on the ensuing possession. The drive was capped by a 14-yard run from Matt Ryan, the signal caller ran out of passing options and elected to use his feet to give his team a 17-0 lead.

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The Falcons defense got their second turnover of the half when Ricardo Allen stepped in front of a pass from Rodgers. The interception set up the Atlanta’s 9-play, 68-yard drive. The culprit capping this drive was Julio Jones, he hauled in a 5-yard pass with three seconds left in the half. Matt Ryan completed 22 of 32 passes for 271 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first half, hitting eight different receivers in the process. Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu both caught touchdown passes, Jones with 6 catches for 71 yards and Sanu 5 catches for 52 yards respectively.  

Things obviously didn’t go nearly as well for the Packers as they finished the first half with less than 145 yards of total offense and two turnovers. There defense fell victim to Atlanta’s offense, giving up 295 yards in the first half alone.

Green Bay’s chances of pulling off the biggest comebacks in playoff history went awry early as they went three-and-out to open the second half.

Ryan connected with Jones for an incredible 73-yard catch-and-run that felt like the proverbial dagger with 13:51 left in the third quarter. Julio reeled in the catch just inside Atlanta’s 40-yard line at the 38, the 6’3 receiver then slipped out of a tackle by LaDarius Gunter and the proceeded to give Damarious Randall  a mean stiff-arm. That stiff arm came at the 25 and sent the defender straight into the turf, Jones then tight roped the sideline before waltzing into the endzone to give the Falcons a commanding 31 point lead.

It took a while, but the Green Bay offense finally got going. At the end of a 12-play, 75-yard drive, Aaron Rodgers found Davante Adams for a 2-yard touchdown. Ty Montgomery, Green Bay’s starting running back, was forced out of the game following a big hit at the end of a 10-yard run The Packers had already lost offensive guard Lane Taylor and defensive backs Micah Hyde and Kentrell Brice before Montgomery’s injury in the game.

Devonta Freeman carried the ball four times for 28 yards on a 75-yard drive that ended with Freeman wrestling the ball away from Morgan Burnett on a 3-yard touchdown reception. With more than a quarter left to play, Ryan had thrown for 371 passing yards and 4 touchdowns. He became the first player with four touchdown passes in a Conference Championship Game since Kurt Warner for Cardinals in 2008 and the third player in the Super Bowl era with four passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a single postseason game.

 Aaron Rodgers started their next drive by scrambling 28-yards and converted a 4th-and-2 to keep the drive alive by running another 7 yards. He ended up leading his team 75-yards on nine plays, finding Jordy Nelson in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown pass. The converted 2-point conversion cut the deficit to 22 (37-15) at the end of the third quarter.

The finals score was 44-21 as Atlanta refused to take their foot of the pedal in the fourth quarter. Ryan finished the day going 27-of-38 for 392 passing yards with five total touchdowns (4 passing, 1 rushing) and no interceptions. The Atlanta offense tallied 493 total yards in the game, which is a postseason franchise record. They had a combined 30 rushes for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Julio Jones finished the game with nine catches for 180 yards and 2 TDs  on 12 targets (his 180 yards is 2nd most in NFC Championship history behind Michael Irvin’s 193).

Green Bay had 367 total yards of offense, Rodgers went 27-of-45 with 287 yards,  3 TDs and one interception. Jordy Nelson who play this game with two cracked ribs had six catches for 67-yards and a score on nine targets. Randle Cobb was their leading receiver with six catches for 82-yards on nine targets.

The Falcons will play the the New England Patriots in Houston, TX Feb. 5 for Super Bowl LI on FOX.

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