ATLANTA have advanced to the NFC Championship game after eliminating the Seattle Seahawks in emphatic fashion, while the New England Patriots humbled Houston.
All the latest news and results form the divisional round of the NFL playoffs is in the wrap!
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 34 — HOUSTON TEXANS 16
The New England Patriots are headed back to a familiar spot: the AFC championship game.
Dion Lewis had a 13-yard touchdown reception, a 98-yard kickoff return for a score, and a late 1-yard touchdown to help the Patriots hold off the Houston Texans 34-16 on Saturday night and advance to an NFL-record sixth straight conference title game. Lewis became the fifth Patriots player to score three touchdowns in a playoff game. He’s also the first player in the Super Bowl era to score on a rush, a catch and a kick return in a postseason game.
The Patriots survived a gritty effort by the Texans’ top-ranked defense, which intercepted Brady twice. Houston’s special teams also forced a third turnover. But the Texans couldn’t find enough traction on offense to take full advantage of the Patriots’ mistakes, settling for field goals on both of Brady’s picks. New England led just 17-13 at the half, but pushed its lead to 24-13 early in the third quarter on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Brady to James White. Houston’s Brock Osweiler was intercepted three times after that, and the Texans managed only a field goal the rest of game.
Brady finished 18 of 38 for 287 yards and two touchdowns and was showered with chants of “MVP! MVP!” and “Brady! Brady!” late in the game. Julian Edelman was Brady’s most dependable target, catching eight passes for 137 yards. Osweiler was just 23 of 40 for 198 yards with the two turnovers.
ATLANTA FALCONS 36 — SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 20
Quarterback Matt Ryan again proved himself the leading contender to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award as he guided the Atlanta Falcons to a 36-20 victory over the visiting Seattle Seahawks in their NFC divisional playoff clash. Taking advantage of multiple throwing options in the league’s premier offence, Ryan completed 26 of 37 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns in front of jubilant fans as the Falcons advanced to the NFC Championship game for just the fourth time.
“It feels good,” Ryan told Fox Sports.
“We have a lot of people who worked really, really hard … coaching staff, front office, players … they put everything into it to give ourselves an opportunity this time of the year.
“I’m just happy with the way we played today.”
Former Super Bowl champions Seattle made an impressive start with an opening drive that culminated in a touchdown to Jimmy Graham after 14 plays and 79 yards, but the Falcons took control from there as their much vaunted offence was backed up by a stellar defence.
Ryan spread the ball wide as eight Falcons players came away with at least a catch, while Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel and Devonta Freeman finished with at least 50 receiving yards. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn, who was defensive co-ordinator for Seattle from 2013-2014, was delighted that his team delivered their fans a first playoff win since 2012, when they edged the Seahawks 30-28 in the divisional round.
“This city and our fans, their connection, you certainly feel it so it’s awesome for them,” said Quinn.
“We are going to have a playoff game at home and it’s because of them. We are so pumped to do it.”
The Falcons will meet either the Dallas Cowboys or Green Bay Packers next weekend to decide which team advances to the Super Bowl.