Final

Falcons 31

(13-2, 6-2 away)

Lions 18

(4-11, 2-5 home)

Coverage: ESPN

8:30 PM ET, December 22, 2012

Ford Field, Detroit, MI 

1 2 3 4 T
ATL 7 14 0 1031
DET 3 3 7 518

Top Performers

Passing: M. Stafford (DET) - 443 YDS, 1 INT

Rushing: M. Leshoure (DET) - 15 CAR, 46 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: C. Johnson (DET) - 11 REC, 225 YDS

Falcons seal NFC's No. 1 seed; Calvin Johnson breaks receiving record

Associated Press

DETROIT -- Matt Ryan got what he wanted.

Calvin Johnson was forced to settle for what he could get.

Ryan matched a career high with four touchdown passes, two to Roddy White, to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the Detroit Lions 31-18 Saturday night and earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

"It's great," Ryan said. "Our confidence is high and our experience -- good and bad -- has helped us. The key is to keep the focus where it's been."

In yet another loss, Johnson had a record-breaking night.

Johnson broke Jerry Rice's NFL single-season yards receiving mark of 1,848. After making the record-breaking catch in the fourth quarter, Johnson jogged over to the sideline and handed the football to his father.

"That was a very special moment," he said.

Johnson also became the only player with 100 yards receiving in eight straight games and the first with 10 receptions in four games in a row in league history. He had 11 receptions for 225 yards, giving him 1,892 this season.

"I've been an NFL fan my whole life, dating back to watching Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry as a kid, and I've coached in this league for 19 years," Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. "I've seen a lot of Hall of Famers, but I've never seen a better player than Calvin Johnson.

"He just broke a record set by Jerry Rice, who is arguably the best player in this history of this league."

The Falcons (13-2) pulled away with Ryan's fourth TD pass to wide-open tight end Michael Palmer in the fourth quarter and Matt Bryant's 20-yard field goal with 3:05 left that gave them a 15-point lead.

Ryan was 25 of 32 for 279 yards without a turnover.

The Falcons hope playing at home, potentially throughout the conference playoffs, helps them more than it did after the 2010 and 1980 seasons. The Falcons failed to win a game in either postseason, getting routed by Green Bay two years ago and blowing a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead to Dallas three decades ago.

Atlanta advanced to its only Super Bowl with a win at Minnesota after winning a franchise-record 14 games during the 1998 season.

The Falcons won't have much incentive to match that mark next week at home against Tampa Bay, when they'll have nothing to gain and something to lose if a key player or more gets hurt.

Detroit (4-11) has been relegated to playing for pride this month and that hasn't been going very well.

The Lions, whose seven-game losing streak is the longest skid in the league, haven't struggled this much since the laughingstock of a franchise became the league's first to go 0-16 in 2008.

The Falcons led 21-3 at halftime before letting the Lions pull within five points early in the fourth quarter.

Ryan dashed Detroit's comeback hopes.

Facing intense pressure, he converted a third down in Atlanta territory with a pass to White, picked on rookie cornerback Jonte Green by throwing to Jones to pick up more first downs and found Tony Gonzalez open to convert another third down to set up his fourth TD pass.

"We didn't play well in the third quarter," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. "Matt made some big throws on that drive."

Stafford was clearly trying to get the ball to Johnson on the next drive and cornerback Asante Samuel figured that out, stepping in front of the receiver for an interception to set up Bryant's field goal.

Atlanta running back Michael Turner was tackled in the end zone, after Detroit turned the ball over on downs, to give the Lions two meaningless points.

Ryan went deep to White for the first score, connecting with him on a 44-yard TD strike with 5:50 left in the first quarter. Ryan threw a short pass to him early in the second quarter and the standout receiver did the rest on a 39-yard sprint down the sideline.

Ryan put his third TD pass where only Julio Jones could catch it a corner of the end zone, and he did on a 16-yard reception that put Atlanta up 21-3.

Detroit didn't give up, a game after being accused of doing just that in a 38-10 loss at Arizona.

Jason Hanson kicked a second field goal late in the first half to make it 21-6.

After Atlanta opened the second half with a three-and-out drive, Mikel Leshoure scored on a 1-yard run midway through the third quarter to pull the Lions with eight points.

Hanson's third field goal made it 21-16.

Stafford finished 37 of 56 for 443 yards with an interception and the Lions say he set an NFL record for the most yards passing in a game without throwing a TD pass.

Detroit dug a big hole because the Falcons scored two TDs off turnovers in the first half.

Defensive end Kroy Biermann forced running Leshoure to fumble, giving the Falcons the ball at their 31 and they took advantage. Ryan's perfectly lofted pass to White's fingertips converted a third-and-1 in a big way, putting the Falcons ahead.

The Lions responded with another drive into Atlanta territory, but stalled and had to settle for Hanson's 34-yard field goal in the final minute of the opening quarter to pull within four points.

Atlanta earned a double-digit lead on the ensuing drive.

Ryan threw a screen pass to his left to White, who got a great block from tight end Gonzalez, and the receiver raced untouched for a score that put the Falcons ahead 14-3.

White finished with eight receptions for 153 yards and two TDs. Jones had seven receptions for 71 yards and a score.

Ryan completed his first 12 attempts and, after his first incomplete pass, he converted a third-and-10 with an 11-yard toss to Jacquizz Rodgers. Two plays later, Ryan matched a season high with a third TD pass on the connection with Jones. Prior to the game, Ryan hadn't started a game with more than 10 consecutive completions, according to STATS LLC. He started 10 for 10 last month against Tampa Bay.

Johnson had three receptions for 70 yards in the first quarter, breaking Herman Moore's single-season franchise record for yards receiving.

By halftime, Johnson had 117 yards receiving. He had 100 yards receiving for an eighth straight game, breaking a record set by Charley Hennigan in 1961 and matched by Michael Irvin in 1995. It was Johnson's 11th game with 100 yards receiving this season, tying Irvin's NFL mark.

"Calvin is one of the best players in the game and I think everybody is a big fan of his," Ryan said. "He's one of the most genuinely nice people you could meet."

Stafford connected with Johnson on a short crossing route and the receiver did the rest, outrunning Falcons on a 49-yard gain. Fittingly, the Lions turned the ball over on the next snap in the latest lowlight in a season full of them.

The Lions, Falcons and fans at Ford Field in Detroit honored the victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School before the game. Players had memorial decals on their helmets that read "S.H.E.S." in white on a black background, and Detroit's coaches wore pins with a similar design. There was also a moment of silence before the national anthem while the names and ages of each victim were shown on the videoboards. Twenty children and six adults were killed in the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn. Adam Lanza killed his mother, shot students and staff, then killed himself.

Game notes

Stafford, in his fourth season, has 1,090 career completions to surpass Bobby Layne's franchise record of 1,074. Stafford is seven attempts away from surpassing the NFL's single-season mark of 691 set by Drew Bledsoe with New England in 1994. ... Backup Falcons CB Chris Owens had a hamstring injury.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Team Stat Comparison

 
ATL
DET
1st Downs1925
Passing 1st downs
1521
Rushing 1st downs
44
1st downs from Penalties
00
3rd down efficiency
6-115-14
4th down efficiency
0-03-4
Total Plays5578
Total Yards344522
Yards per play6.36.7
Total Drives1012
Passing271443
Comp - Att
25-3237-56
Yards per pass
8.57.9
Interceptions thrown
01
Sacks - Yards Lost
1-80-0
Rushing7379
Rushing Attempts
2222
Yards per rush
3.33.6
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-31-4
Penalties3-202-20
Turnovers03
Fumbles lost
02
Interceptions thrown
01
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession28:5231:08

Passing Leaders

ATLC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Ryan25/322798.7401-8
DETC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Stafford37/564437.9010-0

Rushing Leaders

ATLCARYDSAVGTDLG
Turner13413.2022
Ryan22512.5016
DETCARYDSAVGTDLG
Leshoure15463.119
Logan11313.0013

Receiving Leaders

ATLRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
White815319.124410
Jones77110.111611
DETRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Johnson1122520.504916
Bell9738.101612

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERATLDET
atlTD05:50Roddy White 44 Yd Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick) 70
detFG00:13Jason Hanson 34 Yd 73
SECOND QUARTERATLDET
atlTD09:54Roddy White 39 Yd Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick) 143
atlTD01:17Julio Jones 16 Yd Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick) 213
detFG00:02Jason Hanson 38 Yd 216
THIRD QUARTERATLDET
detTD06:59Mikel Leshoure 1 Yd Run (Jason Hanson Kick) 2113
FOURTH QUARTERATLDET
detFG13:26Jason Hanson 20 Yd 2116
atlTD07:12Michael Palmer 1 Yd Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick) 2816
atlFG03:05Matt Bryant 20 Yd 3116
detSF01:21Michael Turner Tackled By Kyle Vanden Bosch In End Zone 3118

Research Notes

Matt Ryan posted a 96.7 Total QBR in Saturday night's win over Detroit. Ryan now has 4 games this season with a 95+ QBR, most in the NFL. In the QBR era, there has only been one other instance of a player having four or more games with a 95+ QBR in a season: Matt Ryan in 2008.
NEXT LEVEL: Calvin Johnson had 100 yards after the catch Saturday, his most in a game in the last five seasons. Johnson became the 11th wide receiver to have 100 or more yards after the catch in a game over that span.
NEXT LEVEL: Calvin Johnson had five catches for 102 yards on throws at least 15 yards downfield Saturday, giving him over 1,000 receiving yards on such throws this season (1,019), a career high. Johnson has 32 more receptions on such throws than the next closest Lions receiver, and has been the best downfield receiving threat in the league this season.
  [+]
NEXT LEVEL: Matt Ryan was extremely accurate Saturday as only three of his 31 attempts (excluding passes thrown away) were incomplete because of an over- or underthrown pass. Ryan continued a season trend as only 13.4 percent of his passes have been incomplete due to an off-target pass, the best percentage in the league.
  [+]
NEXT LEVEL: Matt Ryan was excellent on play action Saturday, going 7-for-7 with 109 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, including six completions and two touchdowns in the first half. Ryan's three touchdowns on play action were half as many as he had entering the game.
  [+]
From Elias:
  [+]
From Elias:
  [+]
Calvin Johnson set or tied five NFL receiving records on Saturday night.
  [+]
Calvin Johnson has caught at least 10 passes in four straight games, the longest streak in NFL history.
Calvin Johnson has broken Jerry Rice's record for receiving yards in a single season with 1,892.
  [+]
With four touchdown passes Saturday, Matt Ryan tied Steve Bartkowski for the Falcons' single-season record with 31 passing touchdowns.
  [+]
This is the third time in Matt Ryan's career that he has thrown for four touchdown passes in one game. Both previous instances were during the 2011 season.
Calvin Johnson has had at least 100 receiving yards in each of his last eight games, the longest such streak in NFL history.
  [+]
Dating back to Week 15, Matt Ryan completed 22 straight passes. That is tied for the third-longest streak in NFL history. The record is 24 straight completions by Donovan McNabb in 2004.
  [+]

ESPN Stats & Information