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Ryan Starts First Half On Fire


The Falcons certainly lived up to their billing as one of the fastest-starting teams in the NFL in the first half Sunday against the 49ers. Although San Francisco won the game's opening coin toss, they elected to defer to the second half, pitting their defense against Atlanta's offense to open the game.

That offense made them pay, dominating the first quarter and when it was over, Atlanta had a 10-0 lead and quite a bit of momentum. Backed by a ruckus Georgia Dome crowd, the Falcons offense posted 182 yards in the first half with 100 of them coming from Julio Jones and his five catches. The game's first touchdown came on a 46-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Jones on the opening series.

The San Francisco defense drew most of the praise and attention heading into the NFC Championship, but it was Atlanta's that did the shutting down. The Falcons held San Francisco to minus-2 yards of total offense in the first quarter and sacked 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick once, a Corey Peters job for a 9-yard loss to end San Francisco's second possession.

Atlanta mixed the run and pass well on offense, running 13 pass plays and eight run plays in the first quarter to stake their lead, but like any good Championship game, the losing team mounted a comeback.

The 49ers scored two touchdowns in the second half, carried mostly by Kaepernick's running and Atlanta's struggles to cover 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. Davis ended the first half with four catches for 75 yards and one TD.

The Falcons used a second Jones touchdown to open the second quarter to get to 17, but after the 49ers put together two consecutive scoring drives, Ryan and the offense answered one more time before heading into the locker room for the break. Atlanta drove 80 yards on seven plays with Ryan methodically picking apart the 49ers secondary to drive down the field. They expanded their lead to 24-14 with a 10-yard Tony Gonzalez TD catch.

Ryan's blistering first half concluded with 18 completions on 24 attempts for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Jones ended the first half with seven catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns.

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