DETROIT (AP) — Matt Ryan threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White and their teammates on defense made some key plays to help the Atlanta Falcons lead the Detroit Lions 7-3 after the first quarter Saturday night.
Atlanta is a win away from earning home-field advantage throughout the NFL playoffs. The Lions have only pride at stake after losing six straight.
Defensive end Kroy Biermann forced running Mikel Leshoure to fumble, giving the Falcons the ball at their 31 and they took advantage. Ryan's perfectly lofted pass to White's fingertips converted a third-and-1 in a big way, putting the Falcons ahead with 5:50 left in the first quarter.
The Lions responded with another drive into Atlanta territory, but stalled and had to settle for Jason Hanson's 34-yard field goal in the final minute of the opening quarter to pull within four points.
Detroit's Calvin Johnson had three receptions for 70 yards in the first quarter, breaking Herman Moore's single-season franchise record for yards receiving and putting him closer to Jerry Rice's NFL record of 1,848 yards receiving.
The Lions went right to Johnson on their first snap, but he gained just 3 yards on the three-and-out drive. The Falcons drove to the Detroit 45 the first time they had the ball, but punted on a fourth-and-2.
Matthew Stafford connected with Johnson on a short crossing route and the receiver did the rest, outrunning Falcons on a 49-yard gain. Fittingly, the Lions turned the ball over on the next snap in the latest lowlight in a season full of them.
The Lions, Falcons and fans at Ford Field in Detroit honored the victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School before the game. Players had memorial decals on their helmets that read "S.H.E.S." in white on a black background, and Detroit's coaches wore pins with a similar design. There was also a moment of silence before the national anthem while the names and ages of each victim were shown on the videoboards. Twenty children and six adults were killed in the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn. Adam Lanza killed his mother, shot students and staff, then killed himself.
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