In the final NFL game played at the Georgia Dome, the Atlanta Falcons closed out their home of 25 years in style by demolishing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 to advance to the franchise's second Super Bowl.
Matt Ryan outplayed Aaron Rodgers in a matchup of MVP candidates, passing for four touchdowns and rushing for another one to deliver the signature postseason performance of his career. He racked up 392 passing yards -- 271 of which came in the first half -- coming up four yards short of the NFC Championship Game record he set in 2012 in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Falcons did their best to wrap this one up by halftime, as they went into the locker room up 24-0. It was the first time Green Bay had been shut out in the first half of a playoff game since Atlanta went into Lambeau Field in 2002 and shocked the Packers 27-7 on the shoulders of Michael Vick. It also marked the largest halftime deficit Rodgers had ever faced.
Atlanta opened the proceedings by finding the end zone on their first possession for the eighth straight game via a two-yard touchdown catch by Mohamed Sanu. Green Bay responded by driving 52 yards in seven plays, but kicker Mason Crosby snapped his NFL-record streak of 23 straight made postseason field goals by pushing a 41-yard attempt wide right.
That was the first of many uncharacteristic mistakes by the Packers.
On their next drive, fullback Aaron Ripkowski fumbled within Atlanta's 10-yard line to waste a golden scoring opportunity. That was the first fumble by any Packer since Week 13.
The Falcons took advantage of the miscue by methodically putting together a nine-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown run by Ryan. They tacked on another touchdown in the second quarter on a five-yard touchdown reception from Julio Jones after Rodgers threw an interception on a long pass intended for Jordy Nelson.
Though the Packers finally got on the scoreboard in the second half with three passing touchdowns from Rodgers, it was too little, too late.
Jones (9 receptions, 180 yards, two touchdowns) staked his claim as the NFL's best receiver, becoming the first player in league history with multiple playoff games of at least 150 receiving yards and two touchdowns. His 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown early in the third quarter provided the best highlight of the game. He stiff-armed several Green Bay defenders to the turf en route to the end zone, padding the Falcons lead to 31-0 and essentially erasing any hope of a Packers comeback.
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) January 22, 2017