ATLANTA, Ga. – Matt Ryan and Julio Jones teamed up for a dominant playoff performance, and the Atlanta Falcons ignored all those ghosts from the last half-century.
Now, they're headed to the Super Bowl.
Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns in another MVP-worthy showing, while Jones shook off a lingering toe injury to haul in nine catches for 180 yards and two scores, leading the Falcons to a 44-21 blowout of the storied Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game Sunday.
On Feb. 5 the Falcons will make only their second Super Bowl appearance in the 51-year history of the franchise. Prior to last week’s win over Seattle, Ryan had a 1-4 record in the playoffs over his first eight seasons. He has finally earned his spot on the biggest stage of them all.
"We'll be ready to go for sure," Ryan said. "I'm just proud of the way that we competed and just really excited for two weeks from now."
This season Atlanta had the league’s highest scoring offense and that trend continued against Green Bay. The Falcons led 17-0 after scoring on their first three drives of the game. The Falcons led 24-0 at halftime against the Packers and essentially put the game away on their second offensive snap of the second half, a play that showed every one of Jones' remarkable skills.
He blazed down the middle of the field, shook off LaDarius Gunter's attempt to grab him on a cut toward the sideline, hauled in the pass from Ryan, broke Gunter's diving attempt at tackle, and defiantly knocked away Damarious Randall's with a brutal stiff-arm on the way to a 73-yard touchdown.
Not bad, considering he took it easy much of the week because of his sore left foot.
"I didn't practice that much throughout the week," Jones said, "but today I came out and gave it all I had."
Atlanta's defense, an afterthought to the guys on the other side of the line, kept the Packers out of the end zone until the game was essentially locked up.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished 27 of 45 for 287 yards and three TDs, but he was threw an interception, was sacked twice and faced a relentless Falcons rush much of the game, especially when Packers were forced to throw on almost every down.
The Falcons finished with a 493-367 edge in total yards.
This was also the final game that will place in the Georgia Dome, the Falcons' home since 1992. It will be torn down and replaced next season by $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Falcons will look to join the 1995 Braves as only the second team in Atlanta pro sports history to bring that city a championship.