DETROIT — Matt Ryan got what he wanted, helping the Atlanta Falcons win a game they needed to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Calvin Johnson, a former Georgia Tech star, had to settle for having a record-breaking night in yet another Detroit loss.
Ryan matched a career high with four touchdown passes, two to Roddy White, and the Falcons led from start to finish in a 31-18 victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night.
Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s NFL single-season yards receiving mark of 1,848.
Johnson, who needed 182 yards to surpass the record Rice set in 1995, finished with 225 yards on 11 catches. He had three receptions for 70 yards in the first quarter and 117 yards by halftime.
He also became the first player with 100 yards receiving in eight consecutive games and the first with 10 receptions in four games in a row.
The Falcons (13-2) pulled away with Ryan’s fourth TD pass to wide-open tight end Michael Palmer in the fourth quarter and Matt Bryant’s 20-yard field goal with 3:05 left that gave them a 15-point lead.
Ryan, who completed his first 12 attempts, hit 25 for 32 for 279 yards in the game.
Ryan went deep to White for the first score, connecting with him on a 44-yard TD strike with 5:50 left in the first quarter. Ryan threw a short pass to him early in the second quarter and White did the rest on a 39-yard sprint down the sideline.
Ryan hit Julio Jones on a 16-yard touchdown pass that put Atlanta up 21-3.
Detroit (4-11) didn’t give up.
Jason Hanson kicked a second field goal late in the first half to make the score 21-6.
After Atlanta opened the second half with a three-and-out drive, Mikel Leshoure scored on a 1-yard run midway through the third quarter to pull the Lions within eight points.
Matthew Stafford, a former Georgia standout, connected with Johnson on 26- and 21-yard passes during the drive that ended with Hanson’s third field goal that made it 21-16.
That would be all of the Lions’ scoring, with the exception of a fourth-quarter safety.
Detroit dug a big hole because the Falcons scored two TDs off turnovers in the first half.