Matt Ryan and Julio Jones got the Atlanta Falcons off to a fast start in Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Falcons, who are three-point underdogs despite having home-field advantage, took the opening kick and drove 80 yards in seven plays before Ryan and Jones connected on a 46-yard touchdown pass to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead 11:31 remaining in the first quarter.
Ryan completed three of his four pass attempts on the drive, hitting Jones for 13 yards on the second play of the game and delivering a 16-yard pass to Roddy White to convert a third-and-nine situation that put the Falcons into 49ers' territory.
A major reason for the Falcons' hot start has been their pass protection. Atlanta's offensive line of left tackle Sam Baker, left guard Justin Blalock, center Todd McClure, right guard Peter Konz and right tackle Tyson Clabo have done an excellent job of providing Ryan with time to find the open receiver. On the 46-yard touchdown, the Falcons used backup offensive lineman Mike Johnson as an eligible receiver, keeping him in to block.
Adding to the hot start, Atlanta's defense, which is coordinated by former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan, forced a three-and-out on the 49ers' opening possession. The Falcons then drove 65 yards in 12 plays before Matt Bryant drilled a 35-yard field.
Through two possessions, Ryan is nine-of-12 for 139 yards and a touchdown, with Jones catching five passes for 100 yards to go along with his touchdown.
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