NFL play-offs 2017

Atlanta Falcons rout Green Bay Packers to seal NFC championship and reach Super Bowl

Quarterback Matt Ryan leads a dominant offensive display as Atlanta crush Green Bay 44-21 to advance to the Super Bowl for only the second time

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 10:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 10:39am

Quarterback Matt Ryan led a dominant offensive display as the Atlanta Falcons crushed the Green Bay Packers 44-21 on Sunday to advance to the Super Bowl for only the second time in franchise history.

The Falcons, who will play either the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers in the February 5 NFL showpiece, laid the foundations for an emphatic NFC Championship victory with a first half performance.

The Falcons surged into a 24-0 half-time lead after overwhelming the Packers defence with their varied running and passing game in what was the team’s final game at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome before they move into a new home.

“We played great today in all three phases,” said an ecstatic Ryan after the win.

“We showed up. We did exactly what we’ve been doing all year. It feels really good,” added Ryan, who completed 27 out of 38 pass attempts for 392 yards and four touchdowns.

Green Bay’s star quarterback Rodgers was barely in the game in the first half, and could only watch as the Packers squandered an early scoring opportunity through a missed Mason Crosby field goal.

It got worse for the Packers when Aaron Ripkowski fumbled close to the Atlanta line as another golden Green Bay touchdown chance went begging.

The Falcons meanwhile looked threatening whenever they ventured into Green Bay territory.

Ryan flipped a short shovel pass to Mohamed Sanu from close range for the opening touchdown to make it 7-0 with the opening Atlanta drive of the game.

Matt Bryant then extended Atlanta’s lead with a 28-yard field goal to make it 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Another long Falcons drive then culminated with Ryan scampering over from 14 yards for a touchdown to push the score to 17-0.

Rodgers, struggling against a ferocious Atlanta defense, then threw an interception to give Atlanta the ball back at the end of the half. Ryan punished the error to hit Julio Jones from five yards to leave the Falcons 24-0 ahead at the break.

It got worse for Green Bay in the opening minutes of the second half, with the Packers forced to punt away their first possession.

Clutch Aaron Rodgers leads Green Bay Packers past rallying Dallas Cowboys 34-31

Ryan then found Jones with a short pass and the star receiver galloped away for a 73-yard touchdown to make it 31-0.

Any flickers of hope for the Packers after Rodgers found Davante Adams for a two-yard score were then extinguished when Devonta Freeman gathered in a Ryan pass from four yards for a touchdown confirmed after review which made it 37-7.

Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers advance with home play-off romps

Rodgers picked out Nelson for a short-range touchdown but it was too little too late and Tevin Coleman’s three-yard run in the fourth quarter put Atlanta 44-15 ahead.

Tight end Jared Cook reduced the deficit with Green Bay’s third touchdown from Rodgers’ one-yard pass but the result was never in doubt.

Ryan said the Falcons had been determined not to let up on Green Bay despite building their massive first half lead.

“We knew going in against Green Bay and going against Aaron (Rodgers) it’s never over,” Ryan said. “He’s such a great player. We just kept at them the entire four quarters. I’m proud of the way we competed.”