Sunday’s NFC Championship Game quickly became a blowout, but it didn’t have to be that way.
A pivotal sequence appeared to tip the balance heavily in the Atlanta Falcons’ favor in their conference championship meeting with the Green Bay Packers at The Georgia Dome.
Early in the second quarter, Packers fullback Aaron Ripkowski fumbled the ball just 10 yards from the Falcons’ end zone. Jalen Collins recovered the ball to deny Green Bay its first points of the game and keep Atlanta’s 10-point lead intact.
Atlanta took possession at its own 20-yard line on the touchback, and quarterback Matt Ryan promptly started marching his team down the field. He hit receiver Julio Jones on consecutive passes of 17 and 20 yards to move the Falcons into Packers’ territory.
Five plays later, Ryan passed to Jones for another 19-yard gain. Then, after another incomplete pass, Ryan used his feet and his legs to stretch Atlanta’s lead to 17-0 with 7:24 remaining in the half.
The Packers tried to respond, but with two minutes remaining in the half, Ricardo Allen intercepted Aaron Rodgers’ deep pass.
Ryan moved Atlanta back into Green Bay’s red zone before linking up with Jones with just three seconds remaining.
And so goes the story of how the Falcons turned what might have been a three-point lead into a 24-point gap halfway through the game. And to add insult to the Packers’ injury, Ryan and Jones linked up early in the second half for a 73-yard touchdown pass.
Thumbnail photo via Jason Getz/USA TODAY Sports Images
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