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The Latest: Ryan puts Falcons ahead with shovel pass

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The Latest on the NFL conference championship games (all times Eastern):


9:30 p.m.

Tom Brady is closing in on a seventh Super Bowl appearance.

The New England quarterback has broken his franchise record, passing for 384 yards and three touchdowns to power the Patriots to a 36-17 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Brady has completed 32 of 42 passes, picking apart Pittsburgh's defense, often hitting wide open receivers who found plenty of room to move in Pittsburgh's zone defense.

Brady is about to improve to 5-0 at home against Pittsburgh.

The Atlanta Falcons await them in Houston in the Super Bowl in two weeks. Brady and the Patriots beat Carolina in the 2004 Super Bowl that gave New England its second championship.

Brady is 4-0 against Atlanta, completing 67 percent of his passes for 1,193 yards and nine touchdowns against just one interception.


9:20 p.m.

With nearly 10 minutes remaining in the AFC championship game, oddsmakers in Las Vegas had seen enough.

The sportsbooks have put the New England Patriots in a familiar position: favorites in a Super Bowl. The Patriots are favored by 3 points over the Atlanta Falcons.

The over/under at most books was 58 points, meaning bookies are expecting a high scoring game.

- Tim Dahlberg reporting from Las Vegas


9:10 p.m.

With the game decided, Patriots fans turned their attention to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with a ''Where is Roger?'' chant at the AFC championship game.

Goodell skipped the game in New England to attend one in Atlanta for the second straight week. He hasn't been to Foxborough, Massachusetts, since suspending Patriots quarterback Tom Brady four games his role in ''Deflategate.''

Patriots fans did not take it well, with many convinced the league has a vendetta against their team.

- Jimmy Golen reported from Foxborough, Massachusetts


9 p.m.

The Atlanta Falcons probably can start game planning for the New England Patriots.

LeGarrette Blount bulled over from 1-yard out to give the Patriots a 27-9 lead and Tom Brady made it 33-9 late in the third quarter when he hit a wide-open Julian Edelman.

Blount set up his score with a churning 18 yard run to the Pittsburgh 1. Blount, who briefly played with the Steelers in 2014 before getting cut after leaving a game early, dragged several Steelers on his back for the final 10 yards.

The Patriots then forced the game's first turnover when Pittsburgh wide receiver Eli Rogers fumbled. Brady wasted little time getting it to Edelman to give the Patriots a commanding 24-point lead.

Brady is 28 of 36 for 361 yards and three scores.

New England receiver Chris Hogan has set a franchise playoff record with nine receptions for 180 yards, breaking the mark Deion Branch set against Denver 11 years ago.


8:35 p.m.

The New England Patriots have extended their lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Stephen Gostkowski's 47-yard field goal gave the Patriots a 20-9 lead with a little less than 10 minutes to go in the third quarter.

Pittsburgh thought it has produced a turnover when New England quarterback Tom Brady appeared to fumble during a quarterback sneak. The officials ruled no fumble and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin challenged the call. Officials said the call on the field stood, meaning there wasn't enough evidence to overturn it.

New England took advantage immediate. Brady hit Chris Hogan for a 24-yard gain to set up Gostkowski's second field goal of the game. Hogan has 141 yards receiving for the Patriots.


8 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are missing chances to stick close to the New England Patriots.

The Patriots have a 17-9 lead over the Steelers at the half after Pittsburgh was forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal after having first and goal at the New England 1.

The Steelers offense has moved the ball well even with running back Le'Veon Bell on the sideline nursing a left groin injury. DeAngelo Williams has been effective but was stuffed twice inside the New England 5 on Pittsburgh's final drive of the half.

Tom Brady is carving up the Steeler defense. Brady is 19 of 24 for 222 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. New England is also 6 of 8 on third down.

Roethlisberger is 16 of 22 for 136 yards. Antonio Brown has just three catches for 26 yards in the half.


7:40 p.m.

Tom Brady is up to his usual tricks against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Brady hit Chris Hogan with a 34-yard touchdown pass to give the Patriots a 17-6 lead over the Steelers in the second quarter. It was Brady's second touchdown toss to Hogan in the game and the 60th playoff touchdown of his career.

Hogan, a lacrosse player at Penn State who moved to Monmouth to play one year of football, already has seven receptions for 117 yards and two scores. It is the first time in his career he's caught two TDs in a game.

New England opened up the playbook to get Hogan open. Brady handed off to Dion Lewis, who flipped to back to Brady on a flea flicker. Hogan slipped by Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell and strolled into the end zone.


7:30 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have received a jolt from an unlikely place: running back DeAngelo Williams.

The veteran pulled the Steelers within 10-6 of the Patriots with a 5-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.

Williams was in the game because star Le'Veon Bell is dealing with a groin injury suffered late in the first quarter. Pittsburgh said he is questionable to return.

Williams led the NFL in rushing through the season's first two weeks while Bell sat out a drug suspension. He gracefully stepped aside when Bell returned. Williams also missed more than a month while recovering from knee surgery.

Williams' running style could be an issue for the Patriots. Where Bell is patient and waits for the hole to open, Williams just goes.


7:15 p.m.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are off to a fast start against the Steelers.

The Patriots have taken a 10-0 lead following a 16-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Chris Hogan.

Hogan caught four passes in all on the drive and was wide open in the back of the end zone when New England's offensive line picked up the Pittsburgh blitz.

Brady has thrown 16 touchdowns at home against the Steelers in his career, with no interceptions.

Brady has now thrown 20 straight touchdowns against Pittsburgh without being picked off. Pittsburgh's last interception against Brady came in 2005 when Chris Hope did it. Hope has been retired since 2012.


6:50 p.m.

The New England Patriots have wasted little time jumping ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tom Brady took the Patriots 62 yards in six plays, leading to a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

The Steelers have never beaten Brady in New England, coming in 0-4 against him. The Patriots are averaging 31 points a game at home this season with Brady under center while Pittsburgh's offense has averaged just 21 points a game away from Heinz Field.


6:40 p.m.

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.


5:37 p.m.

The Falcons are an offensive machine that appears to be pushing the franchise to its second trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history.

Matt Ryan's fourth TD pass covered 4 yards to running back Devonta Freeman, putting Atlanta up 37-7 over Green Bay in the NFC championship game.

Ryan has completed 25 of 35 passes for 371 yards and no picks, further fueling his candidacy for NFL MVP.

The fans are loving every minute of it with the Georgia Dome erupting all afternoon with ''MVP! MVP! MVP!''

- George Henry reporting from Atlanta.


5:02 p.m.

Julio Jones is having one of the best games of his distinguished career.

The sixth-year receiver, in his second straight All-Pro season, has seven catches for 144 yards, and it's still early in the third quarter.

Jones showed why he's arguably the NFL's most elite wideout on a 73-yard touchdown catch down the right sideline, giving the Falcons a 31-0 lead over Green Bay.

Jones was held by cornerback LaDarius Gunter before the catch, pulled the ball down, and broke off the tackle attempt. Cornerback Damarious Randall tried to bring down the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones a few yards later, only to get stiff-armed.

Jones danced briefly to stay in bounds before crossing the goal line.

- George Henry reporting from Atlanta


4:45 p.m.

Even in the nose-bleed seats, most of the capacity crowd of 72,220 at the Georgia Dome stood throughout the first half as the Falcons took a 24-0 lead over Green Bay.

The 25-year-old building, slated for demolition later this year, was louder than it's ever been for a Falcons game, an appropriate ending with the team trying to earn just its second Super Bowl trip in 51 years.

Fans waved white towels and made hearing conditions tough for Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who threw a long interception late in the second quarter that led to Julio Jones' 5-yard TD with 3 seconds left before halftime.

Atlanta has hosted seven playoff games at the Dome, but the higher the stakes, the harder it's been on the Falcons. The 2010 season ended with a blowout loss to the Packers, and four years ago they suffered a last-minute defeat to San Francisco.

- George Henry reporting from Atlanta.


4:15 p.m.

Matt Ryan had gone 82 games without a rushing touchdown before scrambling for a 14-yard score that put the Falcons up 17-0 midway through the second quarter.

The All-Pro QB loves to be self-deprecating about his lack of elite athleticism when running, and he looked a bit awkward as he dove across the goal line. But he faked out linebacker Joe Thomas to get the space he needed to reach the end zone.

- George Henry reporting from Atlanta.


3:40 p.m.

Mason Crosby missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt on Green Bay's opening drive, ending his NFL-record streak of 23 consecutive field goals in the postseason.

Crosby was wide-right on the kick.

Crosby has made 26 of 29 attempts in his postseason career.

- Charles Odum reporting from Atlanta


3:33 p.m.

Jordy Nelson may have broken ribs, but the Packers' leading receiver looks like his old self, catching passes for 27 and 15 yards from Aaron Rodgers on Green Bay's opening drive.

Nelson missed last week's win at Dallas and did not practice this week.

The drive fizzled on Mason Crosby's missed 41-yard field goal wide right and Atlanta leading 7-0.

- George Henry reporting from Atlanta


3:24 p.m.

Matt Ryan's 3-yard shovel pass to Mohamed Sanu has put the Falcons up 7-0 on Green Bay in the NFC championship game, giving Atlanta an opening-drive TD in eight straight games.

With other receivers covered, Ryan rolled out of the pocket to his left and pitched the ball to Sanu, who was wide open just inside the goal line. It was the third third down of the drive with catches by Julio Jones and Sanu. Fullback Patrick DiMarco had the biggest gain, catching a pass in the right flats for a 31-yard gain.

Ryan has thrown 15 TDs and no interceptions in the Falcons' last six games.

- George Henry reporting from Atlanta


The NFC championship game is expected to close out the Georgia Dome with a shootout, with oddsmakers expecting 60 points combined from the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers.

That game opens conference championship Sunday at 3:05 p.m. on Fox, with the winner headed to Super Bowl 51 in Houston to take on the winner of the late game between the Patriots and Steelers.

Pittsburgh is a 4 1/2-point underdog in New England, where the weather shouldn't be a huge factor. It's cloudy, but the temperature should not drop below 35 degrees. That game starts around 6:40 p.m. on CBS.


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