This past Sunday saw the AFC and NFC Championship games taking place in both Atlanta and New England, and no one could have predicted the outcome in the two games, with the result seeing resounding wins for both the Falcons and the Patriots and will see them both meeting in Houston’s NRG Stadium on February 5th for Superbowl LI.
ATLANTA FALCONS GREEN BAY PACKERS
First on the menu was the NFC Championship game in Atlanta, as the Falcons were playing in their final ever game at the Georgia Dome, before the side make their move across the street to their brand new $1.5Billion home in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium next season.
Their opponents were the in-form Green Bay Packers and was led by Aaron Rodgers who had helped turn their season around, with the Wisconsin side racking up 8 win on the spin with their last defeat coming in a huge loss to the Washington Redskins back in November in Week 11. Since then however the Packers have been arguably the best team in the whole of the NFL to date.
The teams met back in Week 8 in the Georgia Dome, where on that occasion Atlanta took a late win over the Packers 33-32 thanks mainly to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, whose late drive inspired a win for his side. This time around though it saw the Falcons being far more aggressive and clinical in their play and virtually saw the hosts having one foot in the Superbowl before Half Time.
Atlanta dominated the first half of the game and had Mohamed Sanu opening the scoring for the Falcons on their opening drive, with quaterback Matt Ryan scrambling from the defence and throwing a quick forward pass out to Sanu in the endzone for a touchdown. Mason Crosby then missed a 41 yard field goal attempt for Green Bay as the Packers looked rattled early on in the game, while Matt Bryant added a kick for the home team to move them 10-0 ahead after the first.
Second quarter saw the brilliance of Atlanta’s wide-receiver Julio Jones, as he made play after play after play for the Falcons. Matt Ryan then went in from 14 yards to make it a 16 point ball game for Atlanta and with the point after, it was 17-0 with 7 minutes still left to play in the first half. Green Bay and Rodgers in particular was unable to spark his team into life in the opening half and had the Falcons defence all over him. Desperation reared its head late in the quarter, when Rodgers launched a long deep ball up field that was intended for Jordy Nelson but instead saw Ricardo Allen making the pick and gave the Falcons another chance to add to their total.
Following the interception by the Falcons, it saw them increasing their lead when Julio Jones made a catch right by the whitewash and had managed to pull it in a for a touchdown to see a 24-0 half time lead for the home side. Jones carried on his stunning form into the second half with the former Alabama wide-receiver running it to the house for a 73 yard touchdown, as he brushed aside the Green Bay defenders on his way to a score.
Green Bay finally got on the board through Devante Adams and saw the Packers now having a lot of work to do if they wanted to get back into this contest. Julio Jones then made a stunning catch for Atlanta as he was being tackled by two Green Bay players in the process of making the grab, but somehow still made a play. Devonta Freeman then made a 4 yard catch to increase the Falcons lead to 30 points and lead 37-15 with the hosts already on their way to the Superbowl.
Jordy Nelson completed a 3 yard play from Aaron Rodgers to see the Packers hitting double figures but was more in consolation. Tevin Coleman ran in unchallenged for an easy touchdown to all but put the final nail in the coffin for the Packers side this season as Atlanta was heading back to the big dance for the first time in 19 years. Green Bay though had the last word in the NFC Championship game, and in truth summed up the Packers season as after a poor start to the game it then saw them coming back late on, but even a Jared Cook touchdown couldn’t prevent the Falcons from victory.
The only question now was, who would the Atlanta Falcons meet a fortnight on Sunday at Houston’s NRG Stadium at Superbowl LI?
New ENGLAND PATRIOTS PITTSBURGH STEELERS
In the AFC Championship game it pitted the two most successful teams in that division historically, with the Pittsburgh Steelers facing the New England Patriots and saw both teams hoping to not just take their place at Superbowl but also edge ahead of their rival in the AFC titles win column too, with both sides winning 8 AFC Championships a piece. Tom Brady was also hoping become the first quarterback in history to win 7 AFC championships titles and they looked good after the opening quarter as they led 10-0, courtesy of a Stephen Gostkowski field goal and a Chris Hogan touchdown to have the Patriots in charge early on.
DeAngelo Williams then smashed his way through the New England defence to get the Steelers on the board, but the extra point was missed and was the second kick to be not converted by Chris Boswell in the postseason. Hogan then recorded his second touchdown of the game, after he connected on a Tom Brady pass for a 34 yard score and saw New England beginning to pull away in the game. Pittsburgh managed to get up to the Patriots goal line, but despite all their efforts they had to resort to kicking a field goal and was a chance missed for the ‘Steel City’ side.
Third quarter saw the Patriots effectively put the game to bed early, as after a Gostkowski field goal from 47 yards out moved the home side further ahead, it then saw LeGarrette Blout going in for a touchdown and made it 27 to 9 game in favour of the hosts. Pittsburgh fumbled on one play and that gave the Patriots another chance to make the most of it before the quarter was out. From the resulting turnover it saw four plays needed before Tom Brady found his man Julian Edelman in the end zone for a touchdown pass and all booked their place at Superbowl with a quarter to go.
With 3:36 left to go in the game, it then saw Ben Rothlisberger then throwing a pass out to the corner of the end zone and saw Cobi Hamilton connecting for a 30 yard touchdown to see the Steelers replying late on. Victory for New England sees them as the undisputed kings in the AFC Division now with 9 titles to their name, but the much bigger prize is that on February 5th as they travel to Houston and will be huge favourites to make it five World titles at Superbowl LI.