At­lanta out to avoid let­down

Fal­cons can clinch NFC’S top seed with win against Lions.

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - By Larry Lage AT­LANTA FAL­CONS At Detroit Lions time: Line: About the Fal­cons ( 2-2): About the Lions (4- 0): Pre­dic­tion: Brian Big­gane, Palm Beach Post RICH AD­DICKS / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

DETROIT — The At­lanta Fal­cons have proven they’re good enough to dom­i­nate a di­vi­sion leader.

At­lanta is coming off a 34-0 vic­tory over New York Giants, putting the NFC South cham­pi­ons within a win of earn­ing home-field ad­van­tage through­out the con­fer­ence play­offs.

The Fal­cons showed the pre­vi­ous week just how vul­ner­a­ble they can be against one of the NFC’s worst teams, los­ing by dou­ble dig­its to the Carolina Pan­thers.

“You can’t just show up if you’re go­ing to beat a team,” At­lanta tight end Tony Gon­za­lez said. “Maybe we learned that at Carolina. Maybe that loss was some­thing good for us.”

The Fal­cons (12-2) will find out soon if they learned their les­son.

It would be easy to over­look the lowly Detroit Lions (4-10) be­cause they

7:30 p.m., ESPN. have lost six straight and were bad enough to lose to Ari­zona last week 38-10, al­low­ing the Car­di­nals to end a nine-game slide.

Matt Ryan said the Fal­cons have too much at stake for a let­down.

“What’s still in front of us in terms of the play­off pic­ture and those kind of things, I think is all the mo­ti­va­tion we need,” Ryan said. “It’s not some­thing I worry about.”

At­lanta will have some wor­ries on de­fense Sat-

Fal­cons by 4. Can clinch home-field ad­van­tage through­out NFC play­offs with a win. ... Matt Ryan has bro­ken his team records for com­ple­tions (369 so far) and pass­ing yards (4,202) in a sea­son. He has 102.7 passer rat­ing in last three games. ... Michael Turner rushed for 122 yards in 23-16 win over Detroit last sea­son.

Have lost last six games, in­clud­ing 38-10 last week at Ari­zona. Have not lost seven straight since 0-16 sea­son in 2008. ... De­spite record, they lead NFC in to­tal of­fense at 406.5 ypg. ... Calvin John­son leads NFL in re­ceiv­ing yards (1,667) and is sec­ond in catches (106). ... Matthew Stafford threw three INTs last week. He has 17 TD passes and 15 picks.

Fal­cons, 27-17. Last week’s rout of Giants should get the Fal­cons on a roll into play­offs, where their true test be­gins. ur­day night in Detroit. A pair of play­ers that played col­lege ball in the Peach State, re­ceiver Calvin John­son and quar­ter­back Matthew Stafford, are the only sources of pride for the Lions and causes of con­cern for op­po­nents.

John­son, the first player in league his­tory with 1,600-plus yards re­ceiv­ing in two straight sea­sons, has matched a league record with 100 yards re­ceiv­ing in seven straight games. He’s 182 yards from break­ing Jerry Rice’s sin­gle-sea­son NFL mark.

The hum­ble su­per­star from Ge­or­gia Tech didn’t even know, ear­lier this week, what Rice’s record was ex­actly.

“18-some­thing, 46, maybe?” he asked. Close. Rice had 1,848 yards re­ceiv­ing with the San Fran­cisco 49ers in 1995.

Ryan might have a trio of tar­gets with 1,000-plus yards re­ceiv­ing by the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Roddy White has al­ready passed the mark for a sixth straight sea­son, and sec­ond-year pro Julio Jones has done it. Star tight end Tony Gon­za­lez is 120 yards away from his first sea­son with 1,000 yards re­ceiv­ing since 2008, his last year with the Kansas City Chiefs. More im­por­tantly, they’ve com­bined for 22 touch­downs through the air.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that de­serve op­por­tu­ni­ties to touch the foot­ball on our of­fense,” At­lanta coach Mike Smith said. “It gives our of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and our quar­ter­back a lot of op­tions when we’re putting our game plan to­gether dur­ing the week.”

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