Falcons clinch NFC’s No. 1 seed by beating Lions
Calvin Johnson sets record for single-season receiving yards
DETROIT — Matt Ryan threw four touchdown passes as the Atlanta Falcons secured home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and spoiled a record-setting night by Calvin Johnson with a 31-18 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Saturday night.
Johnson’s 225 receiving yards gave him 1,892 for the season, breaking Jerry Rice’s single-season record of 1,848 yards set in 1995. Johnson’s eighth straight 100-yard game surpassed the NFL record held by Charley Hennigan (1967) and Michael Irvin (1995).
He also set a league record with his fourth straight game of at least 10 receptions and broke Herman Moore’s franchise record of 1,686 single-season receiving yards.
Ryan, who tied his single-game career high in touchdown passes, completed 25 of 32 passes for 279 yards for the Falcons (13-2). Roddy White, who was questionable coming into the game because of a knee injury, caught eight passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
Johnson broke Rice’s record with 2:57 remaining when he cut across the middle on a 26-yard catch and run. Matt Stafford had 443 passing yards for Detroit (4-11), which has lost seven straight.
Mikel Leshoure’s 1-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter moved Detroit, which trailing by 15 at halftime, within striking distance. Jason Hanson’s 20-yard field goal with 13:26 remaining pulled the Lions within 21-16.
The Falcons responded with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to backup tight end Michael Palmer with 7:12 remaining. Matt Bryant kicked a 20-yard field goal with 3:05 remaining and the Lions scored a safety with 1:21 left.
Ryan completed his first 12 passes and threw three touchdown passes as the Falcons led 21-6 at halftime.
Johnson made a 49-yard reception on Detroit’s second possession but the Lions quickly squandered the opportunity. Leshoure fumbled on the next play and defensive tackle Peria Jerry recovered.
Atlanta took advantage of the turnover and scored when White beat the one-on-one coverage of Chris Houston on a 3rd-and-1 situation from Detroit’s 44. Hanson’s 34-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in the quarter cut Atlanta’s lead to 7-3.
The Ryan-White combo struck again with 9:54 remaining in the half. White caught a screen pass, received a clear-out block from Tony Gonzalez, and raced 39 yards near the left sideline to make it 14-3. White had scored just five times this season before his two-touchdown half.
Johnson fumbled on his fifth catch of the game and once again the Falcons cashed in. Ryan lofted a pass toward the right corner of the end zone and Julio Jones managed to keep both feet inbounds on the 16-yard play with 1:17 left in the half. Hanson kicked a 38-yard field goal to pull the Lions within 15 before halftime.
NOTES: Ryan set the Atlanta single-season record for scoring passes by reaching the 33-touchdown mark. Steve Bartkowski held the record with 31 in 1980. … Ryan’s 4,481 passing yards through 15 games established his franchise’s single-season record. Stafford set the Lions’ record last season with 5,038 yards. … Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew missed his second consecutive game with an ankle injury. Falcons safety William Moore sat out for the third consecutive week with a hamstring injury. … The Falcons’ best regular-season record was 14-2 in 1998. They advanced to the Super Bowl, but lost to Denver. Detroit own a 23-12 record in the series but Atlanta has won the last three. … The Lions’ 17 rushing touchdowns are their most since scoring 19 in 1997.