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Atlanta Falcons beat Detroit Lions, get top playoff seed

Calvin Johnson can have his single-season receiving yardage record. The Atlanta Falcons have a record that matters even more: 13-2.

The Falcons clinched the NFC's No. 1 playoff seed with a 31-18 victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night. Matt Ryan had four touchdown passes and just seven incompletions in his second consecutive near-flawless performance.

I've been critical of the Falcons all season for lucky wins, their easy schedule and playing down to their opponents. But the Falcons deserve a ton of credit for how they've finished out the season. A 34-0 whitewash of the New York Giants last week, followed by this convincing road victory, marks Atlanta's best stretch of the season.

Ryan's play is especially promising. At times, he can make it look too easy because he always gets the Falcons into advantageous looks. He showed off a pinpoint deep ball Saturday, and had a sense of the moment.

After the Lions cut the Falcons' lead to 21-13 in the second half, Ryan had his gutsiest drive. He converted an inside third-down throw to Roddy White while being drilled by a Detroit blitz. That led directly to points being set up by a key Ryan scramble.

This season only will feel like a success in Atlanta if the Falcons cash in on home-field advantage with a playoff win or two. After the last two weeks, the Falcons should feel more confident than at any point this season.

It sounds strange to say for a 13-2 team, but it feels like this group is just hitting its stride.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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