Packers fall in NFC title game, 44-21

Falcons jumped way ahead early and never looked back


ATLANTA – The Packers' remarkable run came up one win short of the Super Bowl.

The Falcons closed the Georgia Dome in style on Sunday, beating the Packers 44-21 in the NFC Championship Game after taking a commanding 31-0 lead early in the third quarter.

Atlanta advanced to its second Super Bowl in franchise history. The Falcons will face either the Steelers or Patriots in Houston for Super Bowl LI in two weeks.

The loss was the Packers' only one in their last nine games, and it ended a season that had been brought back from the brink after Thanksgiving. At 4-6 on the heels of a four-game losing streak, the Packers finished the season 12-7, getting to the NFC title game for the fourth time in Head Coach Mike McCarthy's 11 seasons.

Atlanta's offense was too much from the get-go, rolling up 493 total yards as QB and likely league MVP Matt Ryan completed 27-of-38 for 392 yards with four touchdowns for a 139.4 passer rating. Ryan also rushed for a TD. WR Julio Jones came up big as well, with nine catches for 180 yards and two scores.

The Falcons also got four catches for 52 yards and a TD from WR Mohamed Sanu, while RB Devonta Freeman had 84 yards from scrimmage plus a TD (42 rushing, 42 receiving), and RB Tevin Coleman added 64 yards from scrimmage and a score (29 rushing, 35 receiving).

For the Packers, QB Aaron Rodgers was 27-of-45 for 287 yards with three TDs and one interception for a 91.6 rating. Rodgers also was Green Bay's leading rusher with 46 yards.

TE Jared Cook (7 catches, 78 yards) and WRs Jordy Nelson (6-67) and Davante Adams (3-16) each caught a TD pass for Green Bay. WR Randall Cobb added six catches for 82 yards.

Fourth quarter:

After the onside kick recovery and Sanu's return to the Green Bay 33, the Falcons scored again. A 13-yard pass to Jones converted on third-and-6, and Coleman ran it in from the 3 for another Atlanta TD. The Falcons led 44-15 with 12:07 left.

The Packers got a 20-yard completion to FB Aaron Ripkowski, but then Rodgers was sacked on third down by DE Tyson Jackson. He found Cobb for 34 yards to convert on fourth-and-long. Passes of 8 yards to Ripkowski and 11 yards to WR Geronimo Allison made it first-and-goal on the 7. On a third-down scramble, Rodgers was called for a facemask penalty, backing the Packers up to the 18-yard line.

A pass interference penalty on CB Robert Alford against WR Jeff Janis in the end zone put the ball on the 1-yard line, and Rodgers found Cook for the TD. RB Christine Michael was stopped on an attempted 2-point run, and it was 44-21 with 6:43 left.

Sanu recovered the onside kick again, at midfield, and both teams ran out the clock from there.

Third quarter:

The Packers' offense got on the board in the third quarter, but the defense couldn't stop the Falcons as Atlanta took a 37-15 lead into the fourth quarter of Sunday's NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome.

The Packers started the second half with another three-and-out, as TE Jared Cook dropped two catchable passes.

On the Falcons' second snap, WR Julio Jones got free over the middle and was off to the races, breaking multiple tackles on his way to a 73-yard TD, extending Atlanta's lead to 31-0 just 69 seconds into the third quarter.

The Packers finally got going on a 10-yard run by RB Ty Montgomery and passes of 13 and 11 yards to Cook. Montgomery left the game with a rib injury. QB Aaron Rodgers found Cook for 26 yards to set up first-and-goal from the 7. A 5-yard pass to WR Jordy Nelson put the ball on the 2, and Rodgers hit WR Davante Adams on the slant for the TD. The Packers were on the board, down 31-7 with 9:19 left in the third.

The Falcons came back with a 23-yard pass to Jones, who leaped up high in traffic to bring it down while getting undercut by two defenders. RB Devonta Freeman followed with runs of 14 and 9 yards, and on third-and-1 from the Green Bay 19, S Morgan Burnett was called for pass interference in the end zone against TE Levine Toilolo.

After a fumbled snap, QB Matt Ryan hit Freeman against Burnett right at the goal line, with the ball spotted just inches shy. The Falcons challenged the spot and were awarded a touchdown. K Matt Bryant's PAT was no good, making it 37-7 with 4:11 left in the quarter.

The Packers started their next drive with a 28-yard scramble by Rodgers. One play later, G T.J. Lang was helped off the field, limping, and was carted to the locker room with a foot injury. After an interception by the Falcons was overturned by replay, WR Davante Adams caught an 8-yard pass and Rodgers converted on fourth-and-2 with a read-option run.

An 18-yard pass to Cook, a 7-yard scramble by Rodgers, and a 4-yard pass to Cobb made it first-and-goal on the 3, and Rodgers found WR Jordy Nelson for the TD. FB Aaron Ripkowski ran in the 2-point conversion, cutting the Falcons' lead to 37-15 with 38 seconds left in the quarter.

Falcons WR Mohamed Sanu recovered Green Bay's attempted onside kick.

Second quarter:

The Packers continued to hurt themselves and the Falcons continued to dominate, taking a 24-0 lead into halftime of Sunday's NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome.

The Packers started the second quarter with passes of 17 and 22 yards to WR Randall Cobb. On third-and-4, QB Aaron Rodgers found TE Jared Cook for 5 yards to the Atlanta 23. FB Aaron Ripkowski then busted free on a run up the middle, but Falcons CB Jalen Collins stripped the ball at the 11-yard line and recovered it in the end zone for a touchback.

The Falcons got going again with passes of 17 and 20 yards to WR Julio Jones. A 6-yard pass to WR Mohamed Sanu moved the chains again to the Green Bay 33. QB Matt Ryan then hit Jones over the middle for 19 yards on third-and-10, and Ryan scrambled 14 yards for the TD. The Falcons led 17-0 with 7:24 left in the first half.

The Packers went three-and-out, as a blitzer from Rodgers' left side wasn't picked up on third-and-3, and his hot throw to Cobb gained nothing.

Atlanta started its next drive with a 17-yard pass to RB Tevin Coleman. The Falcons botched a shotgun snap, and LB Jake Ryan nearly recovered, but Coleman got it away from him and WR Taylor Gabriel fell on it for Atlanta. The Packers got the stop, though, and forced a punt for the first time in the game. It was announced Packers DB Micah Hyde has a shoulder injury, return questionable.

Starting from their own 10, the Packers got a first down on short passes to WR Jordy Nelson and Cobb, but Nelson then dropped one over the middle, and Rodgers was sacked by his shoestrings as he failed to step far enough away from the diving arm of Falcons DT Ra'Shede Hageman. That put the Packers in third-and-21 at the 2-minute warning, with LG Lane Taylor leaving with a knee injury and being replaced by Don Barclay.

Rodgers tried to go deep to Nelson on third-and-long, and Falcons S Ricardo Allen picked it off about 50 yards downfield. Atlanta took over on its own 32 with 1:50 left in the half.

Consecutive passes of 8 and 11 yards to RB Devonta Freeman got the Falcons just across midfield. Ryan tried to go deep to WR Aldrick Robinson, and Packers S Marwin Evans had a chance at an interception but missed it. Ryan then found Gabriel for 16 yards on third-and-10, and Freeman picked up 19 more on a dump-off pass to the 14. The Falcons called timeout with 25 seconds left.

Ryan scrambled up the middle for 9 yards to the 5, and the Falcons called their last timeout with 11 ticks left. After CB LaDarius Gunter nearly picked off a pass in the back of the end zone intended for WR Mohamed Sanu, Gunter was beaten to the corner by Jones for the TD with 3 seconds to go.

First quarter:

The Falcons jumped out to a 10-0 lead after one quarter of Sunday's NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on Sunday.

The Falcons took the ball first, and Packers S Kentrell Brice injured his shoulder (return questionable) making the tackle in the kickoff return.

Atlanta got on the board right away. The Falcons converted on third-and-6 with a 6-yard pass to WR Julio Jones and on third-and-11 with a 13-yard pass to WR Mohamed Sanu. On the next snap, FB Patrick DiMarco was left wide open in the right flat, and his 31-yard catch-and-run made it first-and-goal on the 5.

After two runs by RB Tevin Coleman moved the ball to the 2, QB Matt Ryan started to scramble and then flipped a shovel pass to Sanu for the TD. The Falcons took a 7-0 lead with 8:24 left in the quarter.

The Packers came right back but stalled out. Consecutive passes to WR Jordy Nelson gained 42 total yards to put the ball on the Atlanta 29. But on third-and-4, Falcons LB Deion Jones pressured QB Aaron Rodgers into a throwaway, and K Mason Crosby was wide right from 41 yards out, breaking his NFL record postseason field goal streak of 23 in a row.

The Falcons kept converting in long yardage. A 16-yard pass to Sanu on second-and-12 moved the chains, and then TE Austin Hooper was left wide open on third-and-7 for a 15-yard gain. Another 15-yard pass to Sanu made it first down on the Green Bay 22. A 10-yard swing pass to Coleman gave Atlanta another first down on the 12. Sanu took a shotgun snap in the wildcat and ran for 7 on the read-option to the 5. The Falcons false-started to set up third-and-8 from the 10, and Ryan's scrambling pass was incomplete.

K Matt Bryant was good from 28 yards out, and the Falcons led 10-0 with 14 seconds left in the quarter.

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