Aaron Rodgers finally cooled off Sunday in Atlanta but Matt Ryan and the Falcons stayed red-hot. Rodgers and the Packers did not score until the 9:19 mark of the third quarter and by then it was far too late as Atlanta shredded Green Bay, 44-21, and advanced to Super Bowl LI, which will be played in Houston on Feb. 5.
Atlanta led 24-0 at the half and picked up right where it left off in the third quarter as Ryan found Julio Jones for a 73-yard TD pass just over a minute into the second half. Ryan found Jones on a crossing route, on the play that summed up the Green Bay defense’s afternoon, and then Jones stiff-armed his way to the end zone.
Ryan, who is the favorite to win the NFL MVP award, completed 27-of-38 passes for 392 yards, four touchdown and zero interceptions. Ryan had much of his success when looking the way of Jones, who finished with a whopping 180 yards receiving on nine catches. Jones found the end zone twice. Mohamed Sanu and Devonta Freeman also scored through the air.
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Early in the second quarter, it still looked like the Packers would make a game of it as Rodgers drove his offense down the field with relative easy. Set up at the Atlanta 23-yard line, the Packers gave the ball to fullback Aaron Ripkowski, but Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins made the defensive play of the game – stripping Ripkowski and recovering the fumble himself. Collins’ play halted any and all Green Bay momentum.
Rodgers, after looking unstoppable in a wild card win over the Giants and divisional round win over the No. 1-seeded Cowboys, but was mortal in the NFC title game. He completed 27-of-45 passes for 287 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
In two weeks, the Falcons will play in the Super Bowl for just the second time in franchise history. In 1999, they lost in the big game, 34-19, to the Denver Broncos.