By Matthew Asher
For the NFC, the road to Superbowl XLVII now goes through Atlanta. With the falcons 31-18 defeat of the Lions, Atlanta has clinched the number one seed in the NFC Playoffs and is assured home field advantage through the NFL Playoffs.
Although the Lions are now 4-11 and have lost seven straight games, not all is bad in Motown. With a ridiculous 11-catch 225-yard performance by Calvin “Megatron” Johnson Jr., it appears that the Madden Curse is no more.
For anybody who hasn’t been following the story, Johnson was on pace to break Jerry Rice’s 1995 single-season reception yards next week against Chicago. Fans wouldn’t have to wait until next week. With three minutes left in the fourth quarter, needing just four yards for the record, Johnson ran a simple slant route that he turned into yet another impressive 26-yard gain.
There was an announcement of the record and Calvin Jr. gave his record-setting ball to his father, Calvin Sr. The two hugged briefly and then Megatron went back to the field, still intent on finishing the game strong.
It’s tough to tell which of these two stories is bigger news for the NFL and every fan will tell you their own opinion. Either way, congratulations are in order for both stories.
For the Falcons, they take their 13-2 record back home and if they beat the Bucs next week, Atlanta will tie its franchise record for most regular season wins with 14.
For the former Georgia Tech wide receiver, this record may be just a consolation prize, but anytime a receiver can outdo Jerry Rice, you know you’re watching someone special.
Matt Ryan and the receiving corps get an A. While Matty Ice’s statistics weren’t eye-popping, he had a good game. Ryan finished the game going 25 of 32 for 279 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.Roddy White finished with 8 receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns while Julio Jones had 7 caught balls for 71 yards and one touchdown.
Atlanta’s pass defense gets a C. Everybody and their mother knew that Matthew Stafford was going to throw the ball a lot. They also knew he was going to target Megatron as much as possible.
Stafford finished the game completing 37 of his 56 pass attempts for 443 yards. Atlanta did pick off Stafford once, but by then Johnson had amassed more than 170 receiving yards.
Michael Turner gets a D. As a recurring theme, Turner had a very unimpressive game. He finished with 13 carries for 41 yards. While that doesn’t sound horrible, 22 of those yards came on one play. Take that out of the equation and Turner’s numbers are an awful 19 yards for an average of just 1.6 yards per carry. Turner also gave up a safety late in the fourth quarter. With Atlanta taking over at their own 2 yard line, Ryan handed the ball of to Turner who was instantly met in the backfield by the Lions. Rather than fighting, Turner appeared to just give up on the play.
The third quarter gets a D+. The Falcons dominated the first half. Ryan went completed 15 of his 16 throws for 184 yards and three touchdowns through the first two quarters. The defense had given up just 6 points and had forced two fumbles which Atlanta converted into touchdowns.
The third quarter was the exact opposite. Atlanta gained just 17 yards in their two third quarter drives while Detroit’s two drives ended in a touchdown and field goal, respectively. In the early stages of the fourth quarter, Atlanta had a slim 21-16 lead.
With Week 17 being a home game for Atlanta, the Falcons will only have to pack their bags to reach the Super Bowl. But before that trip, Atlanta needs to do something they haven’t done in the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan Era: win one NFL Playoff game.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.