Last updated: February 19. 2013 11:11PM - 129 Views

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DETROIT — The Atlanta Falcons have proven they're good enough to dominate a division leader.

Atlanta is coming off a 34-0 victory over New York Giants, putting the NFC South champions within a win of earning home-field advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

The Falcons, though, showed the previous week just how vulnerable they can be against one of the NFC's worst teams, losing by double digits to the Carolina Panthers.

You can't just show up if you're going to beat a team, Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez said. Maybe we learned that at Carolina. Maybe that loss was something good for us.

The Falcons (12-2) will find out soon if they learned their lesson.

It would be easy to overlook the lowly Detroit Lions (4-10) because they have lost six straight and were bad enough to lose to Arizona last week 38-10, allowing the Cardinals to end a nine-game slide.

Matt Ryan said the Falcons have too much at stake for a letdown.

What's still in front of us in terms of the playoff picture and those kind of things, I think is all the motivation we need, Ryan said. It's not something I worry about.

Atlanta will have some worries on defense Saturday night in Detroit. A pair of players that played college ball in the Peach State, receiver Calvin Johnson and quarterback Matthew Stafford, are the only sources of pride for the Lions and causes of concern for opponents.

Johnson, the first player in league history with 1,600-plus yards receiving in two straight seasons, has matched a league record with 100 yards receiving in seven straight games. He's 182 yards through the air from breaking Jerry Rice's single-season NFL mark.

The humble superstar from Georgia Tech didn't even know, earlier this week, what Rice's record was exactly.

18-something, 46, maybe? he asked.


Rice had 1,848 yards receiving with the San Francisco 49ers in 1995 and Johnson is a couple of his average games away from breaking the 1,900-yard mark.

He's going to get his, Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said of Johnson. You always have to be aware of where he is. If we can limit his catches and keep him out of the end zone, we can't let other guys beat us.

If the Falcons let targets other than Johnson make a lot of plays, it would be more embarrassing than losing to Carolina.


Atlanta Falcons

at Detroit Lions

8:30 p.m. today, ESPN

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