Matt Ryan's Four TDs Help Falcons Clinch NFC's Top Seed
Matt Ryan tossed for 279 yards and four touchdowns as the Atlanta Falcons secured the No. 1 seeding in the NFC and spoiled Calvin Johnson's record-breaking night with a 31-18 win over the Detroit Lions Saturday at Ford Field.
Ryan completed 25 of 32 passes and threw scoring strikes twice to Roddy White and once each to Michael Palmer and Julio Jones to carry the Falcons to their 13th win in 15 outings that assured them of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
With his performance, Ryan tied Steve Bartkowski for the Falcons' single-season record with 31 passing touchdowns.
This is the third time in Ryan's career that he threw four touchdown passes in one game, accomplishing the previous two in the 2011 season.
However, Ryan's outstanding play was shadowed Johnson's record night. The Lions wideout tallied 225 yards on 11 catches to break Jerry Rice's single-season yards receiving record of 1,848 set in 1995 with the San Francisco 49ers.
Entering the game, Johnson needed 182 yards to surpass Rice's record, which he did with his 10th catch in the fourth quarter.
Also, Johnson also tallied more than 100 receiving yards for the eighth straight game to break the league record set by Charley Hennigan in 1961 and tied by Michael Irvin in 1995.
Johnson broke another league mark with 10 receptions for the fourth straight game. It was Johnson's 11th game with 100 yards receiving this season, tying Irvin's NFL mark.
However, Johnson's efforts were not enough as the Lions suffered their seventh straight defeat and dropped to 4-11. Matthew Stafford finished 37-for-56 for 443 yards.
White finished with 153 yards on eight catches and two scores while Jones had 71 yards on seven catches and one touchdown to offset Johnson's record night.
Ryan staked the Falcons to a 21-6 lead after two touchdown passes to White and another to Jones in the first half.
In the third period, Mikel Leshoure rushed for a one-yard touchdown and Jason Hanson added a 20-yard field goal to trim the gap to 21-16 in the fourth period.
Ryan restored the Falcons' double-digit lead with a short touchdown pass to Palmer before Matt Bryant and Leshoure traded field goals for the final tally.
Earlier, the Lions and Falcons honored the victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School with decals on their helmets that read "S.H.E.S." in white on a black background.
Also, there was a moment of silence before the national anthem while the names and ages of each victim were shown on the video boards at Ford Field.
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