Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yards record Saturday night versus the Atlanta Falcons, but that still wasn't enough to push the Detroit Lions to a win.
Instead, the Falcons took home a 31-18 victory to earn the NFC's No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The game was all Atlanta early on. Matt Ryan tore into Detroit's below-average secondary, shredding them on pass after pass.
Roddy White's first touchdown came just under the six-minute mark of the first quarter on a 44-yard strike, putting the Falcons ahead 7-0. Jason Hanson answered with a field goal to make it 7-3 at the end of the quarter, but that was the only positive note for Detroit for most of the first half.
Ryan found White again less than five minutes into the second quarter on a 39-yard touchdown before hitting Julio Jones for a score to make it 21-3 Atlanta with less than two minutes left in the half.
Hanson hit another field goal, this time seconds before halftime, to make it 21-6, but it was a miserable first two quarters overall for Jim Schwartz's team.
The second half was different though. Mikel Leshoure scored from one yard out for the third quarter's only touchdown, and Hanson added his third field goal of the night at the beginning of the fourth quarter to close the gap to 21-16 Atlanta with just under 14 minutes remaining.
Things were looking up, but not for long. Ryan found his comfort zone again with 7:12 remaining in the game and hit tight end Michael Palmer for a short-yardage touchdown toss.
Detroit had its chances to get back into the game, but Matthew Stafford's first interception of the night didn't help matters. He tried to throw one to Johnson, which would have allowed him to break Rice's record, but it was intercepted instead.
Johnson broke the record later on, but not until Atlanta added a Matt Bryant field goal to its tally to make the score 31-16 with just over three minutes remaining.
In the end, it was a familiar struggle for Detroit. The Lions passing attack is dynamic, but the rest of the team lacks the necessary qualities to win. They can't get out of their own way, and the defense is incredibly inconsistent.
Meanwhile, locking up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage is important for Atlanta. Their dynamic offense works wonders in front of its home crowd, and teams will have to fear their ability to score throughout the postseason.
Let's recap this one with some Twitter reaction and by naming a player of the game.
Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke made a sad, but true, point about Detroit's secondary:
A friendly reminder, as Roddy White works him over, that Chris Houston is easily the Lions' best cornerback right now.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) December 23, 2012
Detroit Lions insider Tim Twentyman talked about the strengths of Atlanta's offense:
Falcons are the best screen team in the league. That's their sixth TD of year on screen. Delmas was completely taken out on 39-yard score.— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) December 23, 2012
CBS' Will Brinson noted an odd comparison between Calvin Johnson and Jerry Rice:
Third fumble of the year for Calvin Johnson. Jerry Rice had three fumbles in 1995 when he set the receiving record.— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) December 23, 2012
Detroit Free Press reporter Dave Birkett noted the frustration of Lions fans:
21-6 at halftime. Fans booing the Lions off the field. Weren't happy with FG decision either.— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) December 23, 2012
CBS makes a note of Detroit's choice to kick a field goal after an exciting drive that featured a ton of Calvin Johnson:
No real reason for Lions to not go for it there. At 4-10, give fans something to cheer about it.— Falcons RapidReports (@CBSFalcons) December 23, 2012
ESPN Stats & Info showed us that Rice's record wasn't the only thing that Johnson broke:
Player of the Game: Matt Ryan
Ryan was nearly flawless Saturday night. He consistently shredded Detroit's weak secondary, utilizing White and Jones to his complete advantage.
He finished 25-of-32 for 279 yards and four touchdowns, showing his efficiency with a 142.6 passer rating.
Ryan is talented enough as it is, but giving him guys like White, Jones and Tony Gonzalez makes things borderline unfair at times.
We will have to see if Ryan can step up in the postseason, but, if Week 16 was any indication, this team is ready to make a serious run.
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