Falcons and Patriots Advance to Super Bowl LI.
The 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers had at least a couple of things in common. Both won their conference’s North Division titles. Both finished the season with long winning streaks. Both won two playoff games and advanced to the AFC and NFC Championship games. And both were blown out by the winners of those games on January 22nd.
The Green Bay Packers went to Atlanta to take on a Falcons team that won an earlier clash between the two this season by one point. The Falcons got off to a 24-0 lead at the half on the way to a 44-21 shelling of the Packers. If there was any doubt that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan should be considered among the best in the NFL, it was erased in this game. Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns against a Green Bay secondary that had no answer to his aerial assault. The Packers missed a field goal and lost a fumble in the Atlanta end zone in the first quarter and it went downhill from there. The Falcons advanced to their second Super Bowl. They lost to Denver in Super Bowl XXXIII.
In rainy Foxborough, Massachusetts, the Steelers defense couldn’t stop Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Brady threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns as New England beat Pittsburgh 36-17. Chris Hogan caught nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell went out with a groin injury in the first quarter and that marked the beginning of the end of the Steelers’ season, although the Patriots didn’t put the game away until after scoring 16 unanswered points in the third quarter. The Patriots advanced to their ninth Super Bowl. They’ve won four, most recently Super Bowl XLIX just two years ago. Super Bowl LI will be played in Houston on February 5th, 2017.