The Falcons advance to the NFC Championship for the third time in franchise history (1998 & 2004) after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 30-28 in the NFC Divisional playoff round. This will mark the first time the Falcons will hosts the NFC Championship game.
Matt Bryant kicked the Falcons to victory with a 49-yard field goal with just 13 seconds remaining in the game. Bryant has kicked six game-winning field goals since joining the Falcons in 2009, including three this season. The 49-yard boot was Bryant’s second-longest game winning field goal as a member of the Falcons.
Trailing 28-27 with 31 seconds remaining in the game, QB Matt Ryan drove the Falcons 41 yards in two plays to set up Bryant’s field goal. Including playoffs, Ryan has led the Falcons on game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime 22 times in his career. He has led the Falcons on six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter this season. The two-time Pro Bowl signal caller has more fourth quarter or overtime comebacks than any other quarterback in his first five seasons since 1966.
Ryan finished the game completing 24 of 35 pass attempts for 250 yards with three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 93.8 passer rating. Ryan broke QB Steve Bartkowski’s franchise record for career postseason touchdowns with six and tied both QB Chris Chandler (1/17/99 at Min.) and QB Chris Miller (12/28/91 at NO.) for the most touchdown passes in a single postseason game with three.
Including playoffs, Ryan has posted 41 multi-touchdown games and he has led the Falcons to a 33-8 record in in those games. Additionally, Ryan has posted 19 career games with three-or-more touchdowns (including playoffs) and owns an 18-1 record when he throws three-plus touchdowns, including a 7-1 mark this season.
Ryan improved his record at the Georgia Dome to 34-6 (including playoffs) with Atlanta’s win on Sunday. Since 2008, Ryan’s .850 winning percentage at home is the second best in the NFL behind QB Tom Brady (not including New England’s Divisional round matchup vs. Houston).
Offensively, the Falcons were led by a strong running game as RB Michael Turner and RB Jacquizz Rodgers combined for 162 yards on 24 carries and averaged 6.8 yards per carry.
Turner posted the best postseason game of his career tallying 98 yards on 14 carries (7.0 per carry), including a 33-yard scamper on the Falcons final drive of the first half. Rodgers ran for 64 yards on 10 carries, including a career-long 45-yard rush to set up a Bryant field goal in the first half.
Rodgers’ 45-yard run was the third-longest postseason rush in Falcons history. Only Warrick Dunn (62 yards) and Michael Vick (47 yards) posted longer runs in the playoffs.
The Falcons racked up 417 yards of total offense on Sunday, including 250 through the air and 167 yards on the ground which is the second-highest single-game yardage total in franchise history for a playoff game. The Falcons posted a franchise record 427 yards in their NFC Championship win over the Minnesota Vikings during the 1998 season. Sunday marked the second time in club history that Atlanta posted 400-plus yards in a postseason game.
Defensively, the Falcons made a number of key stops early in the game. S William Moore stuffed FB Michael Robinson for a loss on a fourth-and-one play in the second quarter. Atlanta took over on downs at its own 12-yard line and two plays later Ryan hit WR Roddy White for a 47-yard-touchdown strike.
At the end of the first half, Seattle held the ball at the Atlanta six-yard line with 25 seconds on the clock. After two incomplete passes and a penalty, DT Jonathan Babineaux broke through the line and sacked QB Russell Wilson, which allowed the clock to run out and kept the Seahawks off the scoreboard. Babineaux finished the game with three tackles (one solo) with one sack, one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hit.
The Falcons defense held RB Marshawn Lynch to just 46 yards on 16 carries and 2.9-yards per carry after he ran for 132 yards on 20 carries (6.6-yards per carry) in the Seahawks Wild Card win.
Future Hall of Famer TE Tony Gonzalez was named to 13th Pro Bowl, the most ever for TE, in 2012. Sunday marked Gonzalez’s first career postseason win. He led team with 93 catches this season and recorded his fifth season with 90+ receptions, which is most by a tight end in NFL history. He holds the NFL record with 14 consecutive seasons with 60+ catches.
Ryan connected with Gonzalez on the Falcons first touchdown, hitting the 13 time Pro Bowler for a one-yard touchdown to give the Falcons a 10-0 lead. Including postseason, Gonzalez has recorded 106 touchdown receptions, which is an NFL record for tight ends and ranks sixth in NFL history among all players.
Roddy White finished the game with five catches for 76 yards and one touchdown. With a 16-yard reception on a third down play in the first half, White broke Terance Mathis’ franchise record for career postseason receptions with his 24th playoff grab. Mathis’ caught 23 passes in four playoff games between 1995 and 1998.
RB Jason Snelling caught his first postseason touchdown when he took a five-yard shovel pass from Ryan and rumbled into the endzone.
Snelling’s touchdown catch capped an impressive 14-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up 7:36 of the third quarter. During that crucial drive, Ryan completed eight of 10 pass attempts for 71 yards and a touchdown with a 129.6 quarterback rating on the Falcons clock-killing third quarter drive.
In the first half, Atlanta rushed for 133 yards on 16 carries and averaged 8.3 yards per carry, including a 45-yard run by Rodgers and a 33-yard run by Turner. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Ryan completed six of eight pass attempts for 85 yards with two touchdowns on play-action passes in the first half.
Under Smith, the Falcons are 43-12 when they score first, including playoffs. Atlanta scored 54 points on its first offensive possession, including 51 points in 16 regular season games, which was tied with the Minnesota Vikings for the NFL lead.
The Falcons have posted a 57-27 overall record (including playoffs) under Smith. Since 2008, Atlanta’s .679 winning percentage is the second-highest in the NFL behind the New England Patriots (.729).