Ryan, Falcons beat Seattle 36-20, make NFC title game

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) makes the catch ahead of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) during the first half of an NFL football NFC divisional playoff game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

By PAUL NEWBERRY

AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA– Matt Ryan looked very much like an MVP, and the Atlanta Falcons are headed to the NFC championship game.

Ryan threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Falcons to a 36-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round Saturday.

Atlanta will face either the Dallas Cowboys or the Green Bay Packers, who meet Sunday in the NFC’s other divisional game.

After the Seahawks zipped down the field for a touchdown on the opening possession, Atlanta’s young defense largely shut down Russell Wilson & Co. the rest of the way.

Ryan and the high-scoring Falcons took it from there — getting a huge boost from a holding penalty that wiped out an 80-yard punt return by Devin Hester.

Ryan hooked up with Julio Jones on a 7-yard touchdown and Tevin Coleman for a 14-yard score before finishing off the Seahawks with a 3-yard toss to Mohamed Sanu in the corner of the end zone with just under 4 minutes remaining, sparking a raucous chant of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” from a Georgia Dome crowd that stood most of the game, giving the Falcons the sort of home-field advantage that Seattle is used to having at the Link.

“It feels good,” said Ryan, who came in with a 1-4 record in the playoffs. “I think we executed really well across the board. We weren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, we made some mistakes. But consistency for the entire day was really, really good. I was proud of the way we played.”

Before a foot injury limited him in the second half, Jones made life miserable for Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who got away with an apparent pass interference penalty on Atlanta’s star receiver when the teams met during the regular season, preserving a 26-24 victory for the Seahawks.

Jones was targeted eight times, coming up with six receptions for 67 yards to set a tone that Atlanta would not be intimidated by the Legion of Boom.

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