(Reuters) - Quarterback Matt Ryan again proved himself the leading contender to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award as he guided the Atlanta Falcons to a 36-20 victory over the visiting Seattle Seahawks in their NFC divisional playoff clash on Saturday.
Taking advantage of multiple throwing options in the league’s premier offense, Ryan completed 26 of 37 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns in front of jubilant fans as the Falcons advanced to the NFC Championship game for just the fourth time.
"It feels good," Ryan told Fox Sports. "We have a lot of people who worked really, really hard ... coaching staff, front office, players ... they put everything into it to give ourselves an opportunity this time of the year.
"I'm just happy with the way we played today."
Former Super Bowl champions Seattle made an impressive start with an opening drive that culminated in a touchdown to Jimmy Graham after 14 plays and 79 yards, but the Falcons took control from there as their much vaunted offense was backed up by a stellar defense.
"We executed really well across the board," said Ryan, who spread the ball wide as eight Falcons players came away with at least a catch, while Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel and Devonta Freeman finished with at least 50 receiving yards.
"We weren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, we made some mistakes, but consistency for the entire day was really, really good. I was proud of the way that we played."
Atlanta coach Dan Quinn, who was defensive coordinator for Seattle from 2013–2014, was delighted that his team delivered their fans a first playoff win since 2012, when they edged the Seahawks 30–28 in the divisional round.
"This city and our fans, their connection, you certainly feel it so it's awesome for them," said Quinn. "We are going to have a playoff game at home and it's because of them. We are so pumped to do it.
"We knew that this was going to be a hard battle and it for sure was. Those guys are as tough as they come."
The Falcons will meet either the Dallas Cowboys or Green Bay Packers on Jan. 22 to decide which team advances to the Super Bowl.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St. Augustine, Florida; Editing by Peter Rutherford)