NFL playoffs: Falcons blast Packers, cruise to 2017 Super Bowl
The Falcons are moving on to Super Bowl LI to play the winner of the Steelers-Patriots game
If there was any doubt about the fury and vengeance the Atlanta Falcons offense can unleash on an opposing defense, it was summarily snuffed out in a 44-21 thumping of the Packers on Sunday afternoon in the final game of the Georgia Dome's long run.
History hasn't always been kind to the Falcons in these big spots, but Atlanta never let this game get close, jumping out to a big lead as Matt Ryan put on an absolute clinic while solidifying his case as the 2016 NFL MVP.
Ryan was magnificent against a depleted Green Bay secondary, completing 27 of 38 attempts for 392 yards and four passing touchdowns. Just for good measure, he ran for one too.
Ryan looked like the best quarterback in football operating a successful offense at the highest possible level. He was part surgeon, part point guard, finding open receivers all over the field and putting his skill-position guys in the best possible position to pick up chunks of yardage.
All told, Ryan targeted nine different receivers and completed passes to eight different guys in what amounts to a virtuoso performance. At halftime, the Falcons had a ridiculous 20 first downs and finished with 30 of them on the day, just four shy of the record set by the Chargers and Saints in 2011.
Here are four more takeaways from the Falcons' NFC title win.
1. Destroyer of worlds
The title of "Best Receiver in the NFL" may have shifted this year, because it's pretty difficult to beat Julio Jones when the Falcons receiver is healthy. Jones was his usual dominant self on Sunday against Green Bay, routinely torching a beat-up secondary en route to piling up eight catches, 167 receiving yards and two touchdowns ... in the first three quarters.
Jones picked up most of his yardage on an absurd play where he ripped off about 40 yards after contact, except the contact was basically him stuffing another human being into the turf.
Get off me son -Julio Jones pic.twitter.com/wpfxTjHP0n— Steve Noah (@Steve_OS) January 22, 2017
And he also made a play where he pulled off a somersault while snagging a catch. There aren't many human beings who can do that.
With all due respect to Antonio Brown, Jones is just playing out of his mind right now. It's fascinating too, because the Falcons offense isn't dependent on him having a monster day to succeed. Ryan is dealing the ball over the place.
But because there are so many dangerous weapons on Atlanta's roster, it stretches a defense and presents Jones with opportunities. He certainly took advantage of them on Sunday.
2. Missed opportunities
The Packers didn't score a single point in the first half against Atlanta, which is not a good thing. But they certainly had multiple opportunities to keep Atlanta from piling up a 24-0 lead. That lead, by the way, was the largest of the Rodgers era at halftime.
It shouldn't have been so high, however. There was an early missed field goal by Mason Crosby on the Packers' first possession.
Crosby's 41-yard field goal is no good. Atlanta takes over at its 31 #GBvsATL— Green Bay Packers (@packers) January 22, 2017
The Crosby kick wasn't the only mistake for the Packers, either. As he was streaking to the end zone to get within one score, fullback/halfback Aaron Ripkowski fumbled the ball in the red zone, costing the Packers points.
For as good as Ryan was, he did make a couple mistakes. Green Bay had at least two chances to intercept Ryan but couldn't come up with the ball, including on a Hail Mary throw into the end zone that two guys missed on.
Buddy really completely missed the ball. pic.twitter.com/tVNQoWDBLF— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) January 22, 2017
In the end it probably didn't matter, because Atlanta was just the better team. But Green Bay didn't do itself any favors.
3. NBA level acting
It went mostly unnoticed in the second half of a blowout, but Robert Alford had a pretty incredible flop when Aaron Rodgers gave him a little nudge on the sideline. The play was interesting because Rodgers was tagged with a facemask penalty on the play and looked like he would be pushed out of range for potentially scoring a touchdown.
That was going to have an adverse effect for anyone who bet on the over (somewhere between 60 and 61 depending on where and when you saw it) but a pass interference penalty bailed out the Packers and they scored a few plays later.
4. Well, that's random
Who the heck was the guy in the tunnel that high-fived Tevin Coleman following his touchdown run late?
Weird scene in there but you know that guy was soaking up life in a way few have ever experienced.
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