The highly touted Falcons offense looked the part against the Packers right away, scoring on the opening possession and racking up 325 yards of total offense in the first half. Matt Ryan finished the half with 271 passing yards and two touchdowns, as well as his first rushing touchdown since Week 1 of the 2012 season.
Ryan’s big numbers came with a healthy dose of Mohamed Sanu and Julio Jones, who each caught touchdowns in the first half. Jones’ score came with just three seconds left and featured some fancy footwork on the sideline to bury Green Bay in a 24-0 hole.
It wasn’t just a big hole for Aaron Rodgers to climb out from. It was the biggest halftime deficit he has ever faced during his nine seasons as the starter for the Packers.
But any thought of a second half rally was quickly dismissed when the Packers began the third quarter with a three-and-out that took 11 seconds, promptly followed by a 73-yard touchdown for Jones.
Jones finished the game with 180 yards on nine receptions, becoming the first player ever to record at least 150 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions in multiple postseason games.
Ryan also had an all-time performance, becoming the first quarterback to ever eclipse 380 passing yards with at least four touchdowns and no interceptions in a postseason game.
But the Falcons’ defense deserves much of the credit for the blowout victory, too. The young unit finished No. 27 in the NFL in points allowed, but played its best in the latter half of the season.
After allowing at least 24 points in nine of the first 10 games of the year, the Falcons allowed fewer than 20 points in four of the last six. Last week the Falcons slowed the Seattle Seahawks in a 36-20 win, and Atlanta did it again against the Packers.
Rodgers was pressured throughout the game, and on one of Green Bay’s most successful drives in the first half, Atlanta kept the Packers off the scoreboard by ripping the ball from the arms of Aaron Ripkowski.
The fumble set up the Falcons with a chance to score one more time before halftime, erasing a potential 17-7 score and instead making it 24-0 at the conclusion of the second quarter.
Green Bay finally got on the board with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter, but the nail was already in the coffin and the Packers were lifeless even after the score, picking up a rare delay of game penalty on the ensuing kickoff.
Ultimately, the Packers couldn’t stop the Falcons’ offense at all and gave up a touchdown on the next drive that pushed Atlanta’s lead back to 30 points. When Green Bay scored again with a quick strike to Jordy Nelson, it was again answered by a Falcons touchdown.
The Falcons punted just twice in the game and managed to avoid any turnovers.
Atlanta will move on to face the winner of the AFC Championship that will be played later Sunday between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s the first trip to the Super Bowl for the Falcons since January 1999 when the Falcons lost, 34-19, to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.
That was the only trip to the Super Bowl in the franchise’s history and the Falcons are one of 13 teams to never win a Lombardi Trophy. The Steelers have won six and the Patriots have won four.
Super Bowl LI will be played in Houston at NRG Stadium, which hasn’t hosted the Falcons since December 2011.