Falcons fly past Detroit

Jimmy Cribb/atlantafalcons.com

The Falcons had two goals to start the season. The first was to win the division, which they accomplished last month. The other was to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and that was also accomplished as they took down the Detroit Lions 31-18 on Saturday night at Ford Field.

It was all Falcons in the first half as they jumped to a 21-6 lead. Late in the first quarter, Matt Ryan threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White to give the Falcons the 7-0 lead. That score was set up after Mikel Leshoure fumbled at the Falcons 33-yard line, which was forced by Cory Peters and recovered by Peria Jerry.

After a 34-yard field goal by Detroit’s Jason Hanson with 13 seconds left in the first, the Falcons put a 9-play, 80-yard drive together, which led to a Ryan 39-yard touchdown pass to White to give the Falcons the 14-3 lead.

Later in the quarter, the Falcons increased their lead to 21-3 when Ryan found Julio Jones for a 16-yard touchdown pass, which was possible after John Abraham forced a Calvin Johnson fumble as was recovered by Robert McClain and returned to the Lions 40-yard line. Detroit answered with a Hanson 38-yard field goal before the half.

The third quarter was a challenging one for the Falcons as the Lions cut the lead to eight. After a three-and-out by the Falcons at the start of the third quarter, the Lions put together a 10-play drive, which led to a  Leshoure 1-yard touchdown run.

When the fourth quarter began, the Lions cut the lead to five when Hanson kicked a 20-yard field goal. The Falcons looked the answer on the ensuing drive and things looked grim when they were backed up at their own 28-yard line on third-and-four. But Ryan found Roddy White for a 15-yard gain and that led to a 1-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Michael Palmer.

Lions looked to answer on the ensuing drive but on the first play from scrimmage, Matthew Stafford’s pass was intercepted by Asante Samuel and the led to a Matt Bryant 20-yard field goal to ice the game for the Birds.

Ryan finished his night 25 of 32 with 279 yards and four touchdowns. He now has 31 touchdown passes this season, which ties a franchise record set by Steve Bartkowski in 1980. Ryan’s main target was White and Jones who had a combined 15 receptions, 224 yards and three touchdowns.

Despite letting Stafford throw for 443 yards and Calvin Johnson netting 225 of those yards and break Jerry Rice’s single season receiving record, the defense had another strong performance.

Led by Sean Weatherspoon who had nine tackles, the defense forced the Lions to turn the ball over three times and only allowed 16 points. In the last two games, the Falcons have allowed only one touchdown and have forced five turnovers.

The Falcons are the first team in the NFL to go 13-2 and this is the second time in three seasons the Falcons will finish with at least 13 wins. The Falcons will look to make it 14 wins when they host Tampa Bay next week.

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