Atlanta are heading to their first NFC Championship game in four years after Matt Ryan led the Falcons to a 36-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

Ryan threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns as the Falcons, who were beaten finalists in their last two NFC title games in the 2004/05 and 2012/13 seasons, set up a date with the winner of Sunday's showdown between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers.

After conceding a touchdown in Seattle's opening possession, Atlanta levelled matters when Julio Jones caught a short pass from Ryan before Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked in the end zone after tripping over rookie right guard Rees Odhiambo's boot.

That led to Matt Bryant's 35-yard field goal to put Atlanta in the lead for the first time, an advantage they never surrendered thanks to two more touchdown passes from the impressive Ryan, who completed 26 of 37 passes.

Running-backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were useful outlets for Ryan, with the former rushing into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter to put Atlanta out of sight.

The Falcons are only one game away from a second Super Bowl appearance - their only experience was a 1998 defeat to Denver in John Elway's final game - but they will face either the Cowboys or the Packers next Sunday for the right to compete in the NFL's showpiece event on February 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Malcolm Butler of the New England Patriots rus to his fans

Meanwhile, the New England Patriots sealed their spot in the AFC Championship game for the sixth year in a row after eventually coasting to a 34-16 win over the Houston Texans.

The Patriots, who have won six AFC titles since the turn of the century, were overwhelming favourites to progress and even though Tom Brady was off-colour by his standards, they ran out comfortable winners.
Brady completed 18 of his 38 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns although he also had two interceptions.

The highlight of the night was Dion Lewis running 98 yards from a kick-off return for a touchdown that gave New England a 14-3 advantage.

While Houston brought it back to within a point, thanks to Nick Novak's field goal and Brock Osweiler's only touchdown pass to CJ Fiedorowicz, the Patriots did not buckle.

A touchdown in either quarter gave them plenty of breathing room as they set up a showdown with the winners of Sunday's clash between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs.