Falcons clinch home advantage through playoffs

Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:09am EST
 

(Reuters) - The Atlanta Falcons will enjoy home field advantage throughout the National Football Conference playoffs after beating the Detroit Lions 31-18 on Saturday.

Quarterback Matt Ryan threw four touchdown passes as the visiting Falcons, who last week walloped the Super Bowl champion New York Giants 34-0, improved their National Football League-leading record to 13-2.

However, All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson gave the Detroit fans something to cheer despite the team's seventh loss in a row as he broke the record for most receiving yards in a season.

Serenaded by chants of "Calvin, Calvin," Johnson caught 11 passes for 225 yards from quarterback Matthew Stafford to finish the game with 1,892 yards.

That eclipsed the 1,848 yards set by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers in 1995.

Atlanta ran up a 21-6 lead by intermission on a trio of scoring strikes by Ryan, who finished the game with a splendid completion line of 25-of-32 for 279 yards.

The Lions clawed back, closing to within 21-16 early in the fourth quarter before the Falcons responded with an 11-play, 78-yard drive capped by a one-yard touchdown flip from Ryan to tight end Michael Palmer to restore their cushion.

STEPPED UP

Ryan, who also hit speedy receiver Julio Jones in the back of the endzone for a 16-yard touchdown connection in the second quarter, raised his touchdown total to 31 for the season.   Continued...

 
Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith (C ) congratulates wide receiver Roddy White (L ) after his touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the first half of their NFL football game in Detroit, Michigan December 22, 2012. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook