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Matt Ryan affirms himself as playoff victor (3 TDs), leader (meeting)

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General view of a Seattle Seahawks 12th Man flag. Credit Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what, they're heading into rare territory.

A win would put the Falcons back in the championship game for the first time since the 2012 season, when they beat Seattle in the Divisional Round to advance. They can get back to the NFC Playoffs next season. The Falcons' defense pressured Russell Wilson and forced two fourth quarter interceptions, helping Atlanta secure a 36-20 victory. The Hawks need to find a way to overcome his loss.

But ultimately, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will be judged by how he plays this postseason, how far he takes his NFC South-championship team in the playoffs.

Though Rodgers is deservedly the headliner for the Packers' turnaround, the Green Bay defense deserves credit as well.

But the larger story was Ryan and the Falcons' grimly efficient offence. "The Dome was really rocking".

"Both teams now are a better version of themselves than when we played back then", said Falcons coach Dan Quinn, a former defensive coordinator in Seattle. If Atlanta holds on to the football, the Falcons are nearly guaranteed to put up 28 points of offense. Luckily, we get a second round and a little bit of drama, too.

Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones has insisted his injuries aren't an issue, yet he keeps taking himself out of games. "So I anticipate he'll be ready to rock next week".

"Over the course of time, his game kept evolving and kept getting better and better and for those of you that see how quick his hands are and how hard he works, what you don't see is all the work that goes in behind the scenes when he's out in Hawaii and putting on all the training that he goes through", Quinn said.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) trips at the line of scrimmage against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football divisional football game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Atlanta.

Bennett had arthroscopic knee surgery weeks later and missed five games, but returned for the stretch run and had a sack in each of his last four games. Freeman and Coleman also combined for 102 rushing yards.

It was also a synopsis of what Ryan has done all season, only now it was in one of the biggest games of his life. The Falcons seized momentum, however, and scored 10 points on their next two drives to lead 19-10 at halftime. Jimmy Graham capped the 14-play series with a seven-yard reception that just clipped the goal line in the corner. That's what happens this time of the year. The Steelers played a very nice game against Miami, and have a much tougher test this week. Despite Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott absolutely tearing up the National Football League as rookies, I think experience will win out on Sunday and the Packers will end the Cowboys' dream season.

If seeing the Seahawks once against struggle to play a clean game felt like deja vu, don't worry. "I thought it was just another great statement on what a great dude he is and what a great coach he is and what a great job he is doing".

So I understand there is the argument to be made that if the Falcons won that game against the 49ers but then went on to lose the Super Bowl, a Super Bowl loss (in either a blowout or nail-biter) is more devastating than a playoff loss early in the postseason.

If so, the 34-year-old went out in style. Instead, a holding penalty was called on Kevin Pierre-Louis, even though it did not appear to have any impact on creating room for Hester's return. "For him to go out there and play for us, play for the brothers, that's a blessing".

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