Atlanta out to avoid letdown
Falcons can clinch NFC’S top seed with win against Lions.
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.”