Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, building off a spectacular regular season, threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns to help the Falcons to a 36-20 playoff romp over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday.
The Falcons lived up to their billing as the highest-scoring team in the NFL to the delight of their Georgia Dome fans as they advanced to next Sunday’s NFC championship game.
Atlanta, 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.
Ryan, a contender for league MVP honors, completed 26 of 37 passes in the divisional round game and went without an interception for the fifth consecutive contest while directing the Falcons to points on five of their first six possessions.
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 failed to establish a running game, with Thomas Rawls gaining just 34 yards after going for 161 against Detroit last week.
Atlanta, after seizing momentum in the second quarter for a 19-10 lead at intermission, went 75 yards in 13 plays to start the second half, with Devonta Freeman scoring from a yard out to make it 26-10.
Seattle’s Steven Hauschka kicked a 26-yard field goal later in the third quarter, but kicker 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 built their halftime lead when Ryan connected with Tevin Coleman for a 14-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining to cap a 99-yard drive.
The game shifted Atlanta’s way when a holding penalty wiped out an 80-yard second quarter punt return by Devin Hester and left Seattle, who led 10-7, deep in their 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 that made it 10-9.
Bryant kicked a 35-yard field goal after the ensuing free kick back to Atlanta to put the Falcons ahead 12-9. Ryan then led Atlanta the length of the field in less than three minutes to pad the lead going into halftime.
The first 16 minutes of the game featured matching touchdown drives. Seattle went 89 yards on 14 plays to start the game and Atlanta matched them by going 75 yards in 13 plays.
(Editing by Larry Fine)