USA TODAY Sports' Tom Pelissero breaks down the wins by the Falcons and Patriots and looks ahead to their matchup in Super Bowl LI. USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA – What a grand finale.
“A really, really cool way to send out the Georgia Dome,” said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who left his mark with four scoring strikes and his first rushing touchdown of the season.
The Falcons crushed the
Then again, Rodgers not only had to deal with Atlanta’s defense. He also had to try to keep up with a Falcons offense triggered by Ryan, the presumptive NFL MVP and his big-play sidekick,
Yes, the stars showed up for the Falcons when it mattered most.
Ryan, now officially hotter than Rodgers, passed for 392 yards and 4 TDs while Jones caught nine passes for 180 yards and two TDs – and provided the signature highlight.
“He’s a beast. An absolute stud,” Ryan said of Jones, who didn’t participate in a full practice all week until taking part in a light session on Friday as he nursed a toe injury. “I’ve been so lucky to play with him for as long as I have. He was impressive. I know he wasn’t feeling his best. But he was a warrior.”
When Jones caught a pass over the middle early in the third quarter and used a stiff arm to shake free from
By that time, though, it wasn’t so much of a game.
It was a coronation.
The Falcons are NFC champions again, earning just the second Super Bowl berth in the franchise’s 51-year history – and in only the second year under their energetic head coach, Dan Quinn.
With just five players (including Ryan and Jones) remaining from the 2012 squad that advanced to a similar spot but was upended one step from the Super Bowl in this Dome by the
Man, have they grown up in a hurry.
“The success is always in the struggle,” said safety Ricardo Allen, who had one of the two turnovers by intercepting Rodgers on a heave deep over the middle.
The other turnover came from cornerback
The Falcons turned that into a 9-play, 80-yard TD drive capped by Ryan’s 14-yard and they were on their way.
It’s a great formula that’s headed to Houston. If the defense holds, the offense will surely put up the points as O-coordinator
Atlanta scored the most points in the NFL during the regular season – and surely looked the part of such an efficient machine on Sunday in scoring four touchdowns and a field goal on its first six drives.
But beyond that, it was just a big ‘ol party, a fitting treat to mark the occasion of the last football game played at the raucous Georgia Dome, the team’s home for a quarter-century.
For a city that knows so much about championship droughts and heartbreak – the city’s pro sports teams have combined for one league title – at least the Falcons rose up to make the finale in the Dome an event worth savoring for their fans.
When it was over, the people made even more noise in a frenzied celebration.
They danced. They screamed. They waved their white towels with a fury of civic pride.
Actually, that’s pretty much how they did at the start, too.
It was as though they wanted to generate enough noise to see whether could raise the roof.
They deserved it, too. Many of these fans undoubtedly hung in there while enduring the fall of
But there’s a new chapter now – with a team that has risen to a new throne.
Source: Jarrett Bell | USA Today | January 22, 2017