Falcons Bound For NFC Championship Game After Trouncing Seahawks

ATLANTA — Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan may be 0-4 in the playoffs against all other teams, but he is 2-0 versus the Seattle Seahawks.

Ryan, building off a spectacular regular season, threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns and the Falcons lived up to their billing as the highest-scoring team in the NFL with a 36-20 victory Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

Ryan completed 25 of 36 passes in the divisional round game and went without an interception for the fifth straight contest while directing Atlanta to points on five of its first six possessions.

The victory, which moved the Falcons into the NFC Championship Game for just the fourth time in franchise history, matched a home divisional victory over the Seahawks in the 2012 season that had been Ryan’s only previous postseason success.

The Falcons, who had lost 28-26 at Seattle in the regular season, will play either Dallas or Green Bay on Jan. 22 for the right to advance to the Super Bowl.

Eight Falcons caught passes from Ryan, with Julio Jones grabbing six for 67 yards and a touchdown before sitting out most of the fourth quarter after tweaking the foot that has bothered him most of the season.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson completed 17 of 30 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked three times and intercepted twice. The Seahawks also failed to establish a running game, with Thomas Rawls gaining just 34 yards after going for 161 against Detroit a week earlier.

Atlanta, already having seized momentum in the second quarter, went 75 yards in 13 plays to start the second half, with Devonta Freeman scoring from a yard out.

Seattle’s Steven Hauschka kicked a 26-yard field goal later in the third quarter, but Matt Bryant pushed the lead back to 16 points when he connected from 31 yards to start the fourth quarter.

Ryan’s 3-yard TD pass to Mohamed Sanu following an interception by Ricardo Allen clinched the victory with less than four minutes remaining.

Wilson threw a 31-yard TD pass to Doug Baldwin, but then was picked off by Deion Jones and the Falcons took a knee at the 1-yard line to end the game.

The Falcons led 19-10 at halftime after Ryan connected with Tevin Coleman for a 14-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining to cap a 99-yard drive.

The game shifted the Falcons’ way when a holding penalty wiped out an 80-yard punt return by Devin Hester and left Seattle, leading 10-7 after a 33-yard field goal by Hauschka, deep in its own territory.

Wilson stumbled pulling away from center on second down from the 4-yard line and was covered in the end zone by the Falcons’ Ben Garland for a safety.

Bryant kicked a 35-yard field goal after the ensuing free kick to put the Falcons ahead. Ryan led Atlanta the length of the field in less than three minutes, climaxing the drive with his second TD pass.

The first 16 minutes of the game featured matching touchdowns drives. The Seahawks went 89 yards on 14 plays to start the game and the Falcons matched the touchdown by going 75 yards in 13 plays.

The TD on a 7-yard pass from Wilson to Jimmy Graham was the first opening-quarter points for the Seahawks in a road playoff game under coach Pete Carroll.

In contrast, the 7-yard TD pass from Ryan to Jones at the start of the second quarter marked the seventh straight game that the Falcons had scored on their opening possession.

NOTES: Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn suffered a biceps injury in the first quarter and didn’t return. … Starting RG Germain Ifedi limped off with an ankle injury on Seattle’s opening drive and was replaced by G Rees Odhiambo, also a rookie. … Seattle TE Luke Wilson was evaluated for a head injury in the third quarter and TE Brandon Williams was ruled out after suffering a concussion in the first half. … RB rookie C.J. Prosise (shoulder) took part in early drills for the Seahawks, but was declared inactive. … Commissioner Roger Goodell was part of an NFL contingent in attendance and spent time with Falcons owner Arthur Blank on the field before the game. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, being completed next door to the Georgia Dome, will host the 2019 Super Bowl. … Atlanta rapper Ludacris performed at halftime.

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