Falcons beat Packers 44-21 to reach Super Bowl
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[January 23, 2017]
(Reuters) - Matt Ryan piloted
high-flying Atlanta to a 44-21 rout of the Green Bay Packers in the
National Football Conference (NFC) Championship game on Sunday as
the Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl for just the second time.
Quarterback Ryan underlined his credentials as the favorite for
National Football League (NFL) most valuable player honor, throwing
for four touchdowns and running for another to reach the Feb. 5
Super Bowl in Houston, where Atlanta will take on either the New
England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Falcons celebrated the last game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta
with an awesome display of offensive fireworks, piling up 493 total
yards to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1999
and a chance to claim the franchise's first NFL championship.
"We just kept battling the entire four quarters," said Ryan. "You
never know how these (games) are going to shake out, you expect to
come down to the last play or two ... I'm just really excited about
two weeks from now."
An expected shootout between two of the league's supercharged
attacks was instead a lopsided affair as the Falcons stormed to an
early lead and never looked back as Ryan completed 27-of-38 passes
for 392 yards.
Ryan's favorite target Julio Jones hauled in nine catches for 180
yards and two touchdowns.
Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers never got his team's offense in gear. The
Packers were shutout in the opening half and trailed 31-0 before
finally getting on the scoreboard.
"We ran into a buzz saw," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "Frankly
we ran out of gas.
"We needed to keep pace with those guys, we felt confident coming in
here we would be able to score points, we got behind and got into a
game you just don't want to play."
Owners of the league’s top-scoring offense during the regular
season, the Falcons came out firing on all cylinders and scored on
their first three possessions.
Ryan threw a touchdown to Mohamed Sanu, ran for another and also
connected with Jones to cap a dominating half.
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Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) hugs Green Bay Packers quarterback
Aaron Rodgers (12) after the 2017 NFC Championship Game at the
Georgia Dome. Atlanta won 44-21. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA
Matt Bryant chimed in with a 28-yard field goal and the Falcons led
24-0 at half time.
For the Packers, who arrived in Atlanta riding an eight game winning
streak, the opening half was one of missed opportunities and
miscues, including a missed 41-yard field goal attempt by Mason
Crosby that set the tone for a miserable afternoon.
The Falcons, having squandered a 17-point lead to the San Francisco
49ers in the 2012 NFC title game, did not let up, Ryan finding Jones
with a 73-yard touchdown strike on their first possession of the
second half to go up 31-0.
The next time they had the ball the Packers finally got on the
scoreboard, Rodgers finding Davante Adams in the end zone.
Rogers added touchdown passes to Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook, before
the Packers waved the white flag late in the fourth quarter, sitting
their star quarterback on the bench.
"We hurt ourselves with the missed field goal and another good drive
down there and fumbled inside 10," said Rodgers. "We had zero points
in the first half and you're not going to win many games like that.
"In a game like this it comes down to the little details."
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Both)
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