Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan leads victory over Lions for NFC’s top seed




DETROIT—Any opponent coming to the Georgia Dome in the playoffs will have to deal with the Falcons and their sizzling quarterback.

Matt Ryan staggered the Lions early and finished them off late for a 31-18 Falcons victory Saturday night at Ford Field. The Falcons (13-2) will be the NFC’s top seed with a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

Now the Falcons will try to parlay the NFC’s top seed into postseason success. They couldn’t do it in 2010, when they also posted the NFC’s best record only to lose 48-21 to the Packers in the divisional playoffs round.

“It’s in the back of our minds,” Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said of that game. “But we know we are a different team than we were two years ago with the passion we play with and the play-making ability is much higher than we had two years ago.”

Atlanta’s victory over Detroit rendered moot the result of next Sunday’s regular-season finale against Tampa Bay at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons now will sit back and watch the rest of the NFC’s playoff contenders fight it out for the five other seeds.

The Lions (4-11) lost their seventh consecutive game and could only take solace in wide receiver Calvin Johnson breaking Jerry Rice’s season-single record for receiving yards (1,848). Johnson, the former Sandy Creek High and Georgia Tech standout, needed 182 yards for the mark and finished with 11 catches for 225 yards.

The Falcons will ride into the playoffs with Ryan and the passing game back to their early-season forms. After Ryan carved up the Giants in a 34-0 victory on Sunday, he was 25 for 32 for 279 yards and four touchdowns against the Lions.

Ryan was 15 of 16 for 184 yards with three touchdowns in the first half as the Falcons raced out to a 21-6 lead. When the Lions rallied to within 21-16 early in the final quarter to energize their fans, Ryan quieted them by leading Atlanta on a 10-play touchdown drive.

Ryan completed six straight passes during drive, including a 15-yard pass to Roddy White to convert a third down. Ryan also had 16-yard scramble on second-and-17 and finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Michael Palmer.

“Matt made some big-time throws for us in that drive,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “That’s what Matt has done for us all season long.”

Ryan’s fourth touchdown pass gave him 31 for the season. That ties the franchise single-season record set by Steve Bartkowski in 1980.

Ryan started the game by completing his first 12 pass attempts for 156 yards, including touchdown passes of 44 and 39 yards to White. Ryan’s next pass fell incomplete to leave him two short of the NFL record for consecutive completions—he’d connected on his final 10 attempts against the Giants.

That ended up being Ryan’s only missed pass in the first half. He was 15 for 16 with 184 yards and added a 16-yard touchdown toss to Jones after the two-minute warning.

But Detroit kicked a field goal to trim the lead to 21-6 before halftime and Atlanta’s offense bogged down to start the second half. After the Falcons went three-and-out on their opening possession, the Lions answered with a 10-play, 60-yard drive capped by Mikel Leshoure’s touchdown run.

The Falcons managed just 18 yards on their second possession of the half. The Lions drove to a first-and-goal at Atlanta’s six-yard line to open the fourth quarter but the Falcons held them to a field goal that made it 21-16.

Ultimately the Lions lost because they were the latest opponent that couldn’t stop Atlanta’s passing game even though the Falcons didn’t run the ball effectively.

In the days before the game, Lions coach Jim Schwartz said the Falcons no longer are the power-running team from years past. Now the Falcons air it out with Ryan, Jones, White, tight end Tony Gonzalez and new coordinator Dirk Koetter.

White had eight catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns and Jones had seven receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Gonzalez’s had just one catch but the nine-yard reception converted a third down on the touchdown drive that put the Falcons up 28-16.

“In our offense, I feel like it can be any one of those three guys to step up and make the plays week in and week out,” Ryan said. “Roddy in the first half had some unbelievable plays for us, some explosives. I’m fortunate to have all of those guys around me.”

Falcons players are off until Wednesday. They’ll have a relatively relaxed two weeks as the rest of the NFC playoff picture shakes out and then the wild card teams open the playoffs in two weeks.

The lowest-seeded team to advance from the wild card round will play the Falcons at the Georgia Dome on Jan. 12 or 13. As things stand now, Atlanta’s first playoff game most likely will be against either the Seahawks or the eventual winner of the NFC East from among the Redskins, Cowboys or Giants.

But a lot still can change because the 49ers and Packers are the only other NFC teams that have clinched a playoff spot. The 49ers (10-3-1) are the NFC’s No. 2 team at the moment but the Packers (10-4) still can catch them and earn a first-round bye and a home game in the divisional round.

The Falcons no longer have to worry about playoff positioning.

“We are right where we wanted to be,” Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson said. “When we started talking about it in training camp, we wanted to be a good team by the end of the year and control our own destiny. So far things are working out. We have just go out and finish the deal.”

The Falcons will seek to end a three-game losing streak in the playoffs.

In 2008 they lost 30-24 at Arizona in the wild-card round. After losing to Green Bay in the 2010 playoffs, they fell 24-2 to the Giants in the wild-card round last season.

“I think we are definitely a different football team than we’ve been the past couple of years,” Ryan said. “Right now I think our confidence is high and our experience in the past, both good and bad, have helped us get to the point we’re at. I think the key is to continue to keep the focus where it’s been.”

137 comments Add your comment

32ozMattyIce

December 22nd, 2012
11:50 pm

Nobody who watched this game can say that Matt Ryan is not an elite quarterback. He was under constant pressure all night and still managed to throw for 4 TDs and 0 INTs. Gotta get the run game going, but the important thing is that the road to the Super Bowl runs through the Georgia Dome, baby!

HPDawg

December 22nd, 2012
11:53 pm

Ya Baby! Matty Ice and Roddy!!

HPDawg

December 22nd, 2012
11:54 pm

And hats off to MegaTron, he is a beast!

CongratsFlacons

December 22nd, 2012
11:55 pm

Well done Falcons! Atlanta is proud! Keep it rolling to the SuperBowl. Congrats to Calvin too.

Russmon

December 22nd, 2012
11:57 pm

Wow WTG Falcons!!! Man, this feels good. Enjoy Atlanta fans. The Falcons are getting better and better every year.

NCDawg

December 22nd, 2012
11:57 pm

Proud of the team. They are going to have to rin the ball better in the Playoffs though. We darn sure have a good QB at the helm. Go Falcons!!!

wisconsinfalcons fan

December 22nd, 2012
11:59 pm

ok we still got to tackle better it is play off time knock some body head off next game this is the NFL other wise we played a good game congrats to Calvin Johnson but thats that, stay focus next week Tampon Bay, 14-1 then rest ,yes JUST WIN BABY

NCDawg

December 22nd, 2012
11:59 pm

Oh yea, I almost forgot, Congrats Megatron. A Falcons win make his yards a lot easier to swallow. whew, I can see Julio Jones being that good soon!!!

vesaversa

December 23rd, 2012
12:06 am

The lions play the Falcons tough tonight and they prevail. Hats off to Calvin Johnson he is a Georgia boy and a outstanding player i have watch him play football since high school so i am a fan . But Matt Ryan have really become a elite QB this year .Ryan Julio Jones Roddy White could very well go to the Super bowl this year. The defense kind of worry me i don’know if it was the defensive coordinator fault or the players but they didn’t get a hand on Matthew Stafford not once .The Falcons will have to rush the QB better than they have .Dirtybirds !

Merry Christmas guys

kd

December 23rd, 2012
12:09 am

Told y’all, we close now, lets rest our starters and them do our thing, indoors for the test of the season !!

Elvis is Alive

December 23rd, 2012
12:11 am

Good win. Some interesting and new offensive twists. Sadly, “Stonewall” Michael Turner cannot burst or rip away from the defensive players. MR2 is tough. AS22 Is tough. Konz was a warrior with possibly the best defensive player in the game.Offensive line had some good moments. McClain and Hope were in the zone. It’s NOW or NEXT year. Take a day off. Ok Take two…Tampa Bay at Home…and then its time to drill down for the big prize.
Rise up ..ANGRY bIRDS…Rise up

Devin

December 23rd, 2012
12:13 am

Falcons fan but, going no where with that running game. It’s a joke!

Get Back Jojo

December 23rd, 2012
12:13 am

Great job Falcons, and on ESPN stage. How ya like us now?

Don’t let up….Lets keep rolling

GO FALCONS!!!

eddie willers

December 23rd, 2012
12:18 am

When did Calvin Johnson get such a silly nickname?

TWO GOOD DOGS

December 23rd, 2012
12:21 am

TURNER, THE RALLY KILLER AND THE COACH WHO CALLS HIS NUMBER, WILL BE ATLANTA’S DOWNFALL IN THE END. EVERYONE HAS PREACHED AND PREACHED, BEGGED AND BEGGED TO STOP USING THAT GUY. HIS INABILITY CAUSES THE TEAM TO ALTER IT’S PLAY CALLING. FORCES INTO RISKY PLAYS TO KEEP POSSESSION. AS GOOD AS WE WERE TONITE, WE WERE ONLY A QUICK PASS INTO GETTING TIED IN THE 3RD QUARTER. IT WAS AN UGLY WIN. I;LL TAKE IT, BUT ANOTHER UGLY WIN.

Bird droppings

December 23rd, 2012
12:27 am

The only thing missing tonight was maybe a little bit of Gonzales and Jaquizz. So many options on offense for Matt Ryan. Gruden was on his game tonight too.

Stock picker

December 23rd, 2012
12:29 am

Your dates are wrong. Game will be jan 12 or 13

Tonyv-atl

December 23rd, 2012
12:29 am

we still need a fullback that can block
the game will be on the 12th or 13th

Peachtree John

December 23rd, 2012
12:34 am

And how about the Atlanta running game scoring 2 points for the Lyons on that Safety. I try hard, but can’t understand why they insist on trying to run 33 time aftter time. His days are done. He did a good job, but, he can’t cut it any longer. Too bad the coaching staff does not, or won’t see it.
Congratulations to the team on home field advantage.

dave

December 23rd, 2012
12:35 am

playing hard. I hope William moore is waiting on playoffs. we need him in that secondary. matt ryan is a top qb in this league. jac rogers needs more carry’s.

Eastpoint

December 23rd, 2012
12:43 am

nothing to get excited about…it was the lowly lions, until Falcons win a playoff game..I can’t take these guys seriously, winning homefield is no guarantee falcons will win a playoff game…

Never First, Just the Best.

December 23rd, 2012
12:43 am

Enter your comments here

Michael M.

December 23rd, 2012
12:44 am

Not gonna debate it…………………………………Atlanta will be playing in the NFC championship game for sure this year!

Never First, Just the Best.

December 23rd, 2012
12:48 am

Sorry about the “Enter your comments here” post, My fingers dont do what I want all the time anymore. The Falcons will have to hope the cowbabies or the Redskins make it and knock the Giaints out. Cause you know if Manning gets another shot at us he will want blood. And for the few that want a Falcon Bronco rematch in the SB, don’t think you can get by Peyton twice with the same tricks.
Good win, Need more no-huddle.

Dwayne C

December 23rd, 2012
12:52 am

Agree with “Eastpoint”. Defense gave up a lot of yards in the air, tackling looked shaky quite a bit and RB Michael Turner continues to look as though he’s running with cement blocks attached to his shoes. I hope the Falcons can win a playoff game this year at the very least. Thy better celean some things up or they won’t.

TM

December 23rd, 2012
12:52 am

Turner is not running hard, he is waiting for contact to come to him instead of initiating it, which is what made him successful in his early years with the Falcons. Also, why pitch the ball and expect him to make the edge when he is much too slow for that. The pitch play has been much more successful with Jaquizz Rodgers this year.

Dawg

December 23rd, 2012
12:57 am

two good dogs, go away; you are an idiot ……………….Falcons won with ease w/o help from Gonsales or Turner …….. if we can win w/o them just think how we will kick ass with them ………… Congratz Coons, have a merry Christmas

dj

December 23rd, 2012
12:57 am

damn Im just proud of my team.

kd

December 23rd, 2012
12:58 am

3 forced turnovers, 4 passing touchdowns

kd

December 23rd, 2012
12:59 am

And they focus on a Damm meaningless record

kd

December 23rd, 2012
1:00 am

kd

December 23rd, 2012
1:01 am

Is r-I-d-I-c-u-L-o-u-s

kd

December 23rd, 2012
1:02 am

D led stop blocking so many phrases

bullrusher1

December 23rd, 2012
1:06 am

Congrats CJ. Great job Falcons. Not as good as against the Giants, but great showing overall. Keep t up and the Lombardi Trophy will be coming to the Dome.

falconfreak

December 23rd, 2012
1:16 am

us falcon freaks are used to being a run first team. just cant grasp this pass first team thing . but look where run first got us.lets see where this takes us. good win falcons!

Michael

December 23rd, 2012
1:27 am

I’m concern about our running game for the playoffs.

Mark

December 23rd, 2012
1:48 am

I’m a Falcons fan from long back. Recently moved from Houston to Chicago and also am a Texans fan. I love the Falcons, but they scare me on defense and the running game is just not complimentary to the passing game. Turner just seems to float out of the backfield with no head of steam. He is definitely not an east-west runner. Without the running game and a good defense, I fear that we still won’t go far in the playoffs but I am still rooting for them. Falcons-Texasn Superbowl would be “priceless” for me as I would win either way.

Fats G

December 23rd, 2012
1:50 am

Houston vs Atlanta in Super Bowl…..That’s what I love to see. Never know

Strange Murphy

December 23rd, 2012
2:04 am

Where’s that “MattChokeRyan” loser?

Strange Murphy

December 23rd, 2012
2:06 am

Oh I see! He’s posting as “TWO GOOD DOGS” now.

we can make a real run

December 23rd, 2012
2:57 am

we got #1 seed. Haters can talk about history, real fans talk about now and the future. I think our team this year is the best falcons team ever assembled (yes even better than the 98-99) falcons. Forget the past and we will play this out this year. The SB is in new orleans this year and that is just the story book of our season. This year has a different feel to it and I know in my heart of hearts If we win that first playoff game we will go all the way. Would be nice to knock out GB & SF on the way to the bowl just to silence all the critics. I see a rematch of the last time we went to the SB and that will be the story of that game. Only this time the falcons win it all.

The Mayans Were Wrong, So Are You

December 23rd, 2012
3:03 am

They keep running the ball because it sets up the play-action which we were 7 for 7, 109yards and 3TDs. Turner’s done, but he serves a function still. Sometimes a good running game is one that sets up a great passing game. So everyone get out of your bunkers and ride on the bandwagon that’s still nationally dismissed.

Aficionado67

December 23rd, 2012
3:56 am

Congrats on the win, that’s the stat that counts! Plenty of stuff to get better on heading into the playoffs. Glad to see Roddy White finish the game and no serious injuries for the whole squad, time for some rest and recovery. I don’t know if Turner has always tipped up to the line like he does now, waiting for a crease to open but he surely doesn’t “bust it up in there” or make people miss like Rogers does. Fantastic play calling and execution on offense, seemed a little passive on defense. Time to take it to another level!

Big Daddy

December 23rd, 2012
5:48 am

Great game from the Birds tonight on the road. Detroit tried to make a game of it in the 3rd quarter but our overall talent stop their rally and put the game away in the 4th. I hope our wide receivers are not too banged up. They may only play a few possessions in the Tampa Bay game, which I still hope we win and the Falcons use that game to try a few schemes.

Lots of Kudos to go around to the players and coaches. Jon Gruden’s explanation of some of the OC’s play calling certainly gave everyone a better understanding of the teams offensive and defensive sets. I hope this is really the Falcons year to win it all. I don’t know statistically what number of times the 1st seed has gone on to the Super Bowl and won but, I am hoping our Falcons can do it this year. GO FALCONS!!!

Samuel

December 23rd, 2012
6:06 am

In the moment of Calvin Megatron Johnson’s breaking of Jerry Rice’s record, Roddy White had one hell of game. Matt Ryan played outstanding and the secondary were ball hawks as usual coupled with Kroy Bierman and John Abraham’s forced fumble. I think Suh will give Konz something to work on in practice. Because he got pushed around against the lineman. All in all Dirk Koetter did and outstanding job and the offence executed well. Run game did ok, but I like to see a better run game going into the playoffs. Maybe they can focus on that against Tampa Bay.

oldmike

December 23rd, 2012
7:08 am

watched MR2’s head on pass to JJ in corner of end zone. JJ was third read and throw was perfect. these guys are pretty special. this tram is just growing up and the playoff thing will take care of itself.

playermac

December 23rd, 2012
7:12 am

Please no more end around play calling. The line is missing to many blocks when this play is called. I look up and see more defensive players in the play than offensive blockers.

felix the cat

December 23rd, 2012
7:24 am

Falcons never have to leave the comfort of the dome!! Go Falcons! Win the Super Bowl!

bravesgrl4life on the Falcons train in 2012

December 23rd, 2012
7:29 am

Way to go, Falcons! Keep it going! I was born a Bucs girl (in the Tampa Bay area) and lived through the really bad 70s and 80s for that team (moved to Atlanta in 1992), and normally, I have a hard time rooting for anybody during a Bucs/Falcons game. But next Sunday, I’ll be in Tampa Bay for New Years, and I will be wearing my red & black! The game doesn’t really mean anything, but I’ll still be hoping the Falcons win and go what, 14-2? Sorry, Bucs, but gotta pull for my adopted hometown team now! Oh, and please, I really want the Falcons and Giants knocked out early. I’m tired of those guys.

Falcon fan

December 23rd, 2012
7:52 am

Great Win …!! Everyone stay healthy. Remember guys this team is still a work in progress. Great showing in the 2nd half. That last touch down drive was a statement. Things to work on still. Gettin there though… Go Falcons..!!!!