NFC Divisional: Atlanta Falcons 36, Seattle Seahawks 20

January 14, 2017, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia

The league-leading offence of the Atlanta Falcons put up 422 total yards on their way to a 36-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks and their first trip to the NFC Championship since 2012.

On the opening possession of the game, Seattle mounted a 14-play, 81-yard drive which culminated in Russell Wilson finding Jimmy Graham for a seven-yard touchdown. Atlanta responded with their own 13-play drive on their first possession and tied the game with a Matt Ryan touchdown pass to Julio Jones at the beginning of the second quarter. Devin Hester returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to the Seattle 45 and the Seahawks advanced into Falcons territory with a Wilson 33-yard pass to Paul Richardson which was originally ruled a touchdown but overturned on review. The drive stalled, however, and Seattle settled for a 33-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka. After Atlanta went three-and-out on their next drive, Hester returned the punt 80 yards to the Falcons 7, but Seattle was called for a holding penalty and were pushed back to their own 7. On the second play of the next drive, Wilson was tripped by his own offensive lineman and downed in the end zone for a safety. Atlanta added two scores before the end of the half. First, Matt Bryant kicked a 35-yard field goal to give the Falcons a 12-10 lead. Ryan then finished off a 99-yard drive by connecting with Tevin Coleman on a 14-yard touchdown with 53 seconds remaining to give Atlanta a 19-10 halftime lead.

The Falcons increased their lead on the opening drive of the second half. After a 13-play drive, Devonta Freeman ran in for a touchdown from a yard out to put the Falcons up by 16. Seattle was forced to punt on their next drive, but Atlanta was called for an illegal formation which gave the Seahawks a first down and allowed them to cut the deficit with a Hauschka 26-yard field goal. On a third-down play on the ensuing drive, Ryan hit Freeman for a 53-yard gain to the Seahawks 16 and Bryant finished the drive with a 31-yard field goal on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Seattle was able to get into Falcons territory later in the quarter, but Wilson threw an interception to Ricardo Allen who returned it 45 yards to the Seahawks 46. Ryan then threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu with 3:40 remaining to put the Falcons up by 23. Seattle was able to get back within 16 after Hester returned the kickoff 78 yards and Wilson threw a 31-yard touchdown to Doug Baldwin, but on their final drive Wilson was intercepted again by Deion Jones.

Ryan finished as the game’s leading passer with 338 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns but also two interceptions, and also finished as the Seahawks leading rusher with 49 yards.

AFC Divisional: New England Patriots 34, Houston Texans 16

January 15, 2017, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts

Dion Lewis became the first player in postseason history with a rushing, receiving and kickoff return touchdown to lead the New England Patriots to a 34-16 win over the Houston Texans. New England advanced to the AFC Championship for the sixth consecutive season, a new NFL record.

New England opened the scoring on their second possession of the game, advancing into Houston territory with a 30-yard pass interference penalty and a 22-yard pass to Chris Hogan before Tom Brady connected with Lewis for a 13-yard touchdown. Houston responded with a 14-play drive, assisted by an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Patriots on 3rd down, before Nick Novak kicked a 33-yard field goal. Lewis scored his second touchdown of the game on the ensuing kickoff, returning the kick 98 yards to give New England a 14-3 lead. After A. J. Bouye intercepted a Brady pass on New England’s next possession and returned it to the Patriots 27, Novak kicked a second field goal from 27-yards out. New England turned the ball over again on the first play of the next drive when Lewis fumbled and Eddie Pleasant recovered for the Texans. Two plays later Brock Osweiler threw a 10-yard touchdown to C. J. Fiedorowicz to cut the deficit to one. On New England’s final possession of the half Brady completed a 48-yard pass to Julian Edelman on third down which set up a Stephen Gostkowski 42-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining to give the Patriots a 17-13 halftime lead.

After both teams punted on their first possessions of the second half, New England drove into Houston territory after completions to Edelman of 26 and 14 yards and a 21-yard pass to Hogan. On third down Brady threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to James White which gave the Patriots an 11-point lead. Osweiler was intercepted by Devin McCourty on the following drive, but a holding penalty knocked the Patriots out of field goal range and they were forced to punt. Osweiler turned the ball over again on the ensuing drive when he fumbled after being sacked by Shea McClellin and Patrick Chung returned it 71-yards for a touchdown, but the play was nullified by an illegal substitution penalty. After a Texans punt, Brady threw his second interception of the game, equaling his total from the regular season, this time to Andre Hal. This turnover led to a Novak 46-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter, getting Houston back to within eight. On the first play of their next drive, however, Osweiler threw another interception to Logan Ryan, who returned it 23-yards to the Houston 6. Two plays later Lewis scored his third touchdown on a one-yard run. New England added another Gostkowski field goal from 43-yards out to increase their lead to 34-16. Finally, Osweiler threw his third interception of the game to Duron Harmon with just over three mintues remaining and the Patriots were able to run out the clock.

Brady finished with 287 yards and two touchdowns but also threw two interceptions after throwing just two in the entire regular season. Edelman caught eight passes for 137 yards. Osweiler completed just 23 of 40 passes for 198 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

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