NFL Today, Conference Championships
Sunday, Feb. 5
Atlanta vs. New England, 6:30 p.m. EST, Fox. A season that began with Tom Brady serving a four-game suspension will end with him in the Super Bowl, where his Patriots (16-2) will take on Matt Ryan and the Falcons (13-5) in Houston. Brady and coach Bill Belichick will be seeking their - and the Patriots' - fifth Lombardi Trophy, and second in three years. The Falcons have never won the Super Bowl and are making just their second trip to the big game.
- Matt Ryan, Falcons, threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score in another MVP-worthy showing, leading Atlanta to a 44-21 blowout of Green Bay in the NFC championship game.
- Tom Brady, Patriots, passed for a Patriots playoff-record 384 yards, going 32 of 42 with three TD tosses to lead New England to the Super Bowl with a 36-17 win over Pittsburgh.
- LeGarrette Blount, Patriots, rushed for just 47 yards, but had a TD and an 18-yard run during which he dragged seven Steelers defenders in New England's 36-17 win over Atlanta.
- Chris Hogan, Patriots, set a franchise playoff record with a career-high 180 yards receiving on nine catches with two TDs in New England's 36-17 win over Pittsburgh.
- Julio Jones, Falcons, shook off a toe injury to haul in nine catches for 180 yards and two scores in Atlanta's 44-21 victory over Green Bay.
- Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots, kicked a 31-yard field goal to open the scoring in New England's 36-17 win over Pittsburgh and set a franchise record with 27, surpassing Adam Vinatieri's 26. Gostkowski is fourth all-time. He made a 47-yarder in the third quarter, a 26-yarder in the fourth, but he missed an extra point.
- Jalen Collins, Falcons, stripped the ball out of fullback Aaron Ripkowski's hands from behind and fell on it just across the goal line for a touchback, saving a touchdown in Atlanta's 44-21 win over Green Bay.
STREAKS & STATS
The NFC South became the first division in the NFL to send all four teams - Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay - to the Super Bowl since divisional realignment in 2002. ... Green Bay's eight-game winning streak, which included a victory over top-seeded Dallas last week, was stopped by Atlanta. ... The Patriots improved to 95-1 when leading at halftime at home since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002. The lone exception was against Baltimore in the AFC championship in the 2012 season. ... DeAngelo Williams' 5-yard TD run for Pittsburgh in the second quarter against New England was his first career postseason score on his 34th career postseason touch. ... Pittsburgh's Chris Boswell missed his second extra point of the season after making all 36 of his attempts in the regular season. ... The 14-yard TD run by Matt Ryan was the Falcons quarterback's first rushing score since Week 1 of the 2012 season against Kansas City. He went 82 games, including playoffs, without a rushing TD. ... Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger dropped to 0-2 in the playoffs against the Patriots. He's 13-5 against other teams.
Atlanta topped Green Bay 44-21 to earn the second Super Bowl appearance in the Falcons' 51-year history, the first coming 18 years ago with a team known as the ''Dirty Birds.'' They have never won an NFL championship. ... Tom Brady tied Joe Montana's playoff record with nine three-TD passing performances in a 36-17 win over Pittsburgh. The New England quarterback also had his 11th 300-yard postseason game, extending his NFL record.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
Oddsmakers like New England by a field goal over Atlanta in what experts think will be a high-scoring Super Bowl. Most are also expecting an offensive showdown, with an over/under of 59 at some sports books the biggest ever in Super Bowl history.
New England's 36-17 win over Pittsburgh, and Atlanta's 44-21 victory over Green Bay marked the first time since the 1978 season that both conference championship games were decided by at least 19 points. In 1978, Pittsburgh routed the Houston Oilers 34-5 and Dallas shut out the Los Angeles Rams 28-0.
The Georgia Dome, the Falcons' home since 1992, will be torn down and replaced next season by $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium. With the home team comfortably ahead in Atlanta's 44-21 win over Green Bay, the raucous crowd of more than 71,000 basically partied through the whole second half.
Pittsburgh lost running back Le'Veon Bell late in the first quarter of the Steelers' 36-17 loss to New England to a groin injury. ... Patriots defensive back Nate Ebner left with a head injury. ... Green Bay linebacker Jake Ryan left the 44-21 loss to Atlanta early because of an injury, as did left guard Lane Taylor, right guard T.J. Lang, running back Ty Montgomery and safeties Kentrell Brice and Micah Hyde.
''He's a beast. I've been lucky to play with him as long as I have. He was impressive today. I know he wasn't feeling his best, but he's a warrior.'' - Atlanta's Matt Ryan on wide receiver Julio Jones, who had nine catches for 180 yards and two scores in a 44-21 win over Green Bay after barely practicing during the week because of a lingering toe injury.
''This is my motivation right here, all these fellas in front of me, these guys. The boys showed up to play today.'' - New England's Tom Brady said, pointing to his teammates and ignoring mentions of ''Deflategate'' after the Patriots' 36-17 win over Pittsburgh.
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