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Matt Ryan, Falcons' offense look unstoppable going into playoffs


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Vaughn McClureESPN Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- During a timeout with 4:10 left in the third quarter Sunday, chants of "M-V-P, M-V-P" rang loudly throughout the Georgia Dome.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan seemed oblivious to the roars as he huddled with his teammates and clapped his hands, ready to move on to the next play. But certainly he had to be moved by the respect and appreciation displayed by the home crowd.

Ryan certainly did nothing but boost his MVP candidacy with yet another masterful performance. He completed 17 of 19 passes for 235 yards and four touchdowns in the first half to stake his team to a 35-13 halftime lead en route to a 38-32 triumph over the rival New Orleans Saints.

The win means the 11-5 Falcons secured the No. 2 seed in the NFC behind the Dallas Cowboys. The Falcons now get a first-round bye, giving banged-up players such as Julio Jones (toe), Taylor Gabriel (foot), Vic Beasley Jr. (shoulder) and Keanu Neal (concussion) an extra week to recover before the home playoff game in the second round.

What Ryan & Co. did Sunday was show the rest of the playoff field, including the Cowboys and Patriots, just how unstoppable this offense can be. The Falcons scored touchdowns on their first five offensive drives, including a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Tevin Coleman, a Devonta Freeman 75-yard touchdown run and a 1-yard fade from Ryan to Jones.

The Falcons entered Sunday's game averaging a league-best 33.5 points per game. Counting Sunday, they scored 35 or more points in eight games this season and won all eight. Five of those games were 40-point efforts. Score 40-plus in the playoffs and the Falcons just might find themselves in Houston for the Super Bowl.

Ryan finished the regular season 53 yards shy of 5,000, but that didn't matter to him in the big picture. All he has talked about all season is wins, and his arm helped the Falcons reached 11 wins for the first time since 2012.

And the fact the defense surrendered 32 points to the Saints and gave up three fourth-quarter touchdowns only emphasized why the Falcons need to score, and score, and score. The defense has shown progress but still has lapses, probably attributed to youth.

The way things are lined up now, the Falcons just might get a rematch with the No. 3 seed Seattle Seahawks, the team they lost to 26-24 in Week 6. But the Falcons are a much better team now.



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