ATLANTA - The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC Championship game, sending the franchise to its second Super Bowl appearance. The team rode a powerful offense and opportunistic defense to the title game.
Quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns in an offensive explosion, and the Falcons defense held the Packers scoreless for a half. Atlanta finished with nearly 500 yards of total offense.
The Packers had the ball to start the third quarter, facing a 24-0 halftime deficit. But their first possession went nowhere and the Packers had to punt. The Falcons struck quickly, scoring on a two play drive that ended with a 73 yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones. That made the margin 31-0.
Green Bay finally got on the board with 9:19 remaining in the third, thanks to a 2 yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams.
But the Falcons responded with a touchdown drive, aided by a pass interference call in the end zone that led to a short touchdown pass to Devonta Freeman. The score came after a successful Falcons replay challenge of a spot just short of the goal line. A missed extra point made the score 37-7.
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The Packers scored with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter on a Rodgers to Jordy Nelson touchdown pass. Facing a big deficit, the Packers converted a two point effort on an Aaron Ripkowski run. That narrowed the gap to 37-15. The Packers tried an onside kick, but Falcons receiver Mohamad Sanu recovered the kick.
That set up a short touchdown drive that ended with a Tevin Coleman run from four yards out. Atlanta went up 44-15.
The Packers made one last attempt to rally, scoring on a touchdown pass to tight end Jared Cook with 6:43 to play. Another two point conversion try failed, leaving the score at 44-21 Atlanta. Again, the Falcons recovered an onside kick.
Atlanta controlled the clock for much of the remaining time, and Green Bay inserted its backup quarterback to finish the game.
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The first half was dominated by the Falcons offense and some Packers miscues.
The Falcons took possession after the opening kickoff, and scored on the first drive of the game. The opening touchdown came on a 2 yard pass from Matt Ryan to Mohamad Sanu. Ryan went 6 of 8 passing for 64 yards on the touchdown drive. The big play came on a 31 yard pass to fullback Patrick DiMarco, putting the Falcons in the red zone.
The Packers responded with an effective drive on their first possession, but the drive stalled at the Falcons 23 yard line. Packers kicker Mason Crosby then missed a 41 yard field goal, giving possession back to Atlanta.
Atlanta took the ball and moved down the field again, getting to the Green Bay 10 before settling for a 28 yard Matt Bryant field goal to make the score 10-0.
The Packers second drive also generated big yards, but ended with no points when Jalen Collins forced a fumble by Packers fullback Aaron Ripkowski. The Falcons recovered in the end zone, and took possession at their 20.
The Falcons promptly marched 80 yards, the drive ending with a 14 yard touchdown run by Matt Ryan, making the score 17-0.
The Falcons defense stiffened on the next two Packers possessions, forcing a punt, then intercepting Aaron Rodgers. The Ricardo Allen pick gave the Falcons possession inside the final two minutes of the first half.
That drive ended with a Ryan to Julio Jones touchdown pass with :03 remaining in the first half.
This was the final Falcons game to be played in the Georgia Dome. The team will move to the new Mercedes Benz stadium next season.
The Falcons will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. The Super Bowl will be played February 5 in Houston, Texas. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m., and the game will be seen on FOX 5 Atlanta.
If you're interested in traveling to the Super Bowl, it'll cost you. The cheapest tickets online are running over $3,000.