Atlanta's Defense Won the Game in the First Half

The Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers face off in the NFC Championship game; the last game to be played in the Georgia Dome. Here are photos from gameday.

While the offense rolled to 24 first-half points, Atlanta's defense determined the outcome of Sunday's NFC Championship Game in the first half by thwarting a dangerous Packers attack.

Prior to intermission, Atlanta held Green Bay to zero points and one-for-four on third down, sacked Aaron Rodgers once and created two turnovers, allowing Matt Ryan and Co. to jump out to a big lead — one they would not relinquish.

On the Packers' first drive of the contest, pressure from Deion Jones on a 3rd and 4 led Rodgers to fire an errant pass from Atlanta's 23, which brought on Green Bay's field goal unit. Mason Crosby missed the 41-yard attempt, putting the ball back in Matt Ryan's hands. Matt Bryant connected on a 28-yard FG try shortly thereafter.

The Packers got deep into Falcons territory on their next possession and looked poised to score as Aaron Ripkowski rumbled towards the goal line. A touchdown there would have made it a three-point contest, but Jalen Collins forced the first turnover of the game when he stripped the football out of Ripkowski's arms and recovered it in the end zone.

Atlanta took advantage of that mishap, as Ryan authored a nine-play, 80-yard drive that ended with him scrambling 14 yards into the end zone.

Just like that, a game that could have been 10-7 was 17-0.

Each club then punted once, giving the Packers an opportunity to get in a rhythm. They'd never have that chance, however: Ra'Shede Hageman set up a third and long by sacking Rodgers deep in Green Bay territory, and on the following snap, Ricardo Allen reeled in an interception on a deep pass at the Falcons' 32.

Ryan took it from there again, marching 68 yards downfield in 1:47 and tossing a five-yard TD to Julio Jones, putting the Falcons up 24-0 at halftime.

Green Bay gained 127 net yards in the first 30 minutes — only 19 of which came on the ground — compared to Atlanta's 325. What's more, the Packers gained 6.04 yards per snap in the opening two quarters, more than a full yard below what the Falcons recorded (7.06).

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