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ProFootballTalk: Will Reed hang it up, too?

Ray Lewis is calling it quits, while Randy Moss may also hang it up after the Super Bowl. Will this become the end of the line for Ed Reed as well?

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Report: Saints, Colts talked Sean Payton deal

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints looks on during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Manning isn’t the only Peyton the Colts wanted to hire, apparently.

The Colts also explored via back channels the possibility of obtaining the services of coach Sean Payton from the Saints, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. The two teams were unable to strike a deal regarding the compensation the Saints would receive for Payton’s services.

Payton also would have been a factor in the discussions, since the procedure would have initially required the Colts and Saints to have a tentative deal in place regarding compensation before the Colts would have had direct talks with Payton as to: (1) whether he wants to coach the Colts; and (2) what it would take to get a deal done with Indianapolis.

Many in the media erroneously describe the situation as a “trade.” The transaction can’t occur without the consent of the coach, and the coach’s current contract is torn up as part of the process and replaced with a brand new deal.

If the Colts and Saints had struck a tentative arrangement, it would have been imperative for both sides to keep things quiet until the Colts fired G.M. Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano and complied with the Rooney Rule as to both positions. Per the report, Payton would have brought Jeff Ireland with him from New Orleans to serve as G.M.

The fact that the Saints were willing to consider parting ways with Payton and that, apparently, Payton was willing to go will do nothing to end the annual “Sean Payton Could Be Leaving The Saints” reports. With Saints quarterback Drew Brees under contract for only one more year and taking the position that there won’t be an extension, maybe this will raw the year when the reports are finally right.

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Steelers close the gap, without Le’Veon Bell

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts prior to the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Steelers are making a bit of a run, and they’re doing it without their best runner.

Le’Veon Bell left the game early in the second quarter and hasn’t returned, and the Steelers have announced he’s questionable to return with a left groin injury.

They’re fortunate they have a talented backup in DeAngelo Williams, and the veteran just ran for a touchdown which cut the gap to 10-6. Kicker Chris Boswell missed the extra point, which could cause the Steelers to be more aggressive going for two later in the game.

Williams has four carries for 25 yards, after Bell gained 18 on his first five tries. While they’d obviously rather have their regular in there, Williams is keeping them close, and his decisive style might be a better fit than Bell’s stop-and-go patience.

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Chris Hogan puts the Patriots up 10-0

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Chris Hogan #15 of the New England Patriots reacts during the first half against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

He’s not Rob Gronkowski, but Chris Hogan has created quite a niche for himself in New England.

He just scored to put the Patriots up 10-0 on the Steelers late in the first, dominating a drive.

Hogan caught four passes for 57 yards, including the 16-yard touchdown which capped a quick, effective drive.

He doesn’t fall into the diminutive Julian Edelman/Wes Welker profile the Patriots have had such success with over the years, and they’re using him on some of the same seam routes that have been so productive when their All-Pro tight end was healthy.

Tom Brady’s already 10-of-12 for 128 yards so far, an efficient start as he’s been willing to go no-huddle to keep the Steelers off balance.

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Mike McCarthy: We ran into a buzzsaw

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers walks off the field after being defeated by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons defeated the Packers 44-21.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers coach Mike McCarthy didn’t see Sunday’s NFC Championship Game much differently than anyone else who watched the Falcons roll to Super Bowl LI with a 44-21 win.

McCarthy noted the rough start that saw the Packers miss a field goal and lose a fumble in the end zone on their first two drives while the Falcons were scoring on their first three possessions. That left the Packers down 17-0 and McCarthy said that’s “a game you don’t want to play” on the road against a team as good as the Falcons.

We ran into a buzzsaw,” McCarthy said during his postgame press conference. “…We couldn’t overcome the pace that these guys were playing. They played lights out and it got away from us.”

McCarthy was asked about injuries taking a toll and he admitted they did, but the overall theme of the press conference was the same as the overall theme of the game. The Falcons were just too much for the Packers to handle across the board on Sunday.

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AFC lacks NFC fireworks, Patriots up 3-0 early

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) greets team owner Robert Kraft before the AFC championship NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) AP

Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are no slouches, but the AFC Championship Game is off to a much slower start than its NFC counterpart.

The Patriots are up 3-0 in the first quarter, with both teams getting stops early on.

The Patriots got off to a quick start, with Tom Brady completing his first four passes to four different receivers. But their drive stalled in the red zone, forcing them to settle for a 31-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski and a 3-0 lead.

The Steelers first drive stalled when they decided to go over the top to Sammie Coates on third-and-1, and he let it drop between his hands.

While it might not keep the same frenetic pace of the first game, there has already been more defense played.

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Ryan, Falcons roll to NFC title

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons runs for a 14 yard touchdown in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Matt Ryan and the Falcons left zero doubt.

They dominated from the beginning Sunday, turning the NFC Championship Game into a rout and eventually a 44-21 victory.

Julio Jones feasted on an overmatched Packers defense, catching nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. He caught a short touchdown pass on the final play of the first half and had a 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown early in the third quarter.

Ryan threw for 392 yards and four touchdowns, and he also ran for a touchdown in the first half. The Falcons led by 24 at halftime and were at 400 total yards before the Packers got 130. They led 31-0 before the Packers scored.

The Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl, their first since the 1998 season. They had missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.

Already down 7-0 after a Ryan pass to Mohamed Sanu, the Packers missed a field goal on their first drive Sunday, and Aaron Ripkowski fumbled inside the Atlanta 10-yard line on their second. By the time the Packers generated offense again Jones had already scored two touchdowns. Ryan had wide open receivers all day, and the Packers just couldn’t keep up in any sense.

The Falcons punted once in the first 57 minutes. Making an awful day worse, three Packers offensive linemen — Lane Taylor, Bryan Bulaga and T.J. Lang — left the game with injuries. Defensive tackle Letroy Guion had to play offensive line on the final drive, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was taken out for his own protection. Rodgers threw for 287 yards, three touchdowns and was intercepted once.

The Falcons finished Sunday’s game with 493 yards of offense, 30 first downs and a six-minute time of possession advantage.

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T.J. Lang carted to locker room

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 27:  Guard T.J. Lang #70 of the Green Bay Packers on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Packers 38-8.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang was carted to the locker room late in the third quarter of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

Lang suffered a lower leg or ankle injury. The Packers have had a miserable day and previously lost Micah Hyde, Kentrell Brice, Lane Taylor and Jake Ryan to injuries, so with Taylor and Lang out they’re trying to mount a comeback without two starting offensive linemen.

The Falcons hold a 37-15 lead late in the third quarter.

Packers running back Ty Montgomery also left the game due to a rib injury and his return is questionable. Unless the Packers somehow make it close, he likely won’t return.

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Michael Floyd, Ladarius Green out for Sunday night

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 01:  Michael Floyd #14 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Falcons continue to shred the Packers en route to Atlanta’s second Super Bowl appearance, another spot remains to be earned.

Patriots receiver Michael Floyd and Steelers tight end Ladarius Green are among the players who won’t be in uniform for the AFC title game.

Floyd is a healthy scratch for the Patriots, along with quarterback Jacoby Brissett, cornerback Justin Coleman, cornerback Cyrus Jones, running back D.J. Foster, safety Jordan Richards, and tackle LaAdrian Waddle.

Green, who suffered his latest concussion on December 18 and hasn’t played since, will be joined by receiver DeMarcus Ayers, quarterback Zach Mettenberger, cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz, linebacker L.J. Fort, defensive end Johnny Maxey, and tackle Brian Mihalik as inactive Steelers.

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Ryan throws fourth touchdown pass of the day

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22: Austin Hooper #81 of the Atlanta Falcons signals for a first down during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers finally scored. The Falcons came back throwing, showing they wanted more.

The Falcons answered the first Packers’ points with another long touchdown drive, going 75 yards in eight plays to make it 37-7. Matt Ryan’s fourth touchdown pass of the game went to Devonta Freeman, and though Matt Bryant missed the PAT it shouldn’t matter.

The Falcons have dominated from the start.

An Aaron Rodgers pass to Davante Adams with 9:19 left in the third quarter got the Packers on the board.

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Pereira, Blandino offer different reasons for Falcons touchback

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22: Jalen Collins #32 of the Atlanta Falcons recovers a fumble in the second quarter by Aaron Ripkowski #22 of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

If NFL fans have a hard time understanding the rules, that’s understandable: Even the head of officiating and the former head of officiating don’t always see a call the same way.

After the Falcons were given a touchback on a recovery of a Packers fumble that almost rolled into the end zone, NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino and his predecessor, FOX rules analyst Mike Pereira, offered different explanations for the ruling.

Blandino wrote on Twitter that Falcons safety Jalen Collins “Gained possession with left leg touching the goal line so it is a touchback.” In other words, the ruling was about where Collins’ leg was, not where the ball was.

But Pereira wrote on Twitter that it was a touchback because “the recovering player did not have total control of the ball until the ball had broken the plane.” In other words, Pereira says the ruling was based on where the ball was, not where Collins was.

Blandino and Pereira both agree that the ruling of a Falcons recovery in the end zone for a touchback was correct. But they disagree on why it was the correct ruling. And when even the experts can’t agree, it’s hard for the fans to understand the league’s convoluted rules.

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Julio Jones showing off speed, skill as Falcons rout Packers

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons catches a 5 yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter against LaDarius Gunter #36 of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Julio Jones was limited in practice last week. He’s apparently OK — and he’s killing the Packers.

A 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Jones early in the third quarter has made it 31-0. Jones also caught a 5-yard touchdown pass just before halftime and is over 140 receiving yards in this NFC Championship Game.

The Packers have had no answers. Matt Ryan is over 300 yards passing; he’s thrown three touchdown passes and he ran for another.

The Packers moved the ball early but Mason Crosby missed a field goal and Aaron Ripkowski fumbled at the end of a run that would have made it first and goal. Now the Packers need a miracle, but they’re struggling to even get first downs.

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Packers have few answers, no points at halftime

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates with Mohamed Sanu #12 after a 14 yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Matt Ryan and the Falcons dominated the first half and hold a 24-0 halftime lead over the Packers.

Ryan has thrown touchdown passes to Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu and also ran 14 yards for a score. He threw for 271 yards in the first half.

Jones caught a 5-yard touchdown pass with three seconds left in the first half to further deflate the Packers.

The Packers moved the ball early but Mason Crosby missed a field goal and Aaron Ripkowski fumbled at the end of a run that would have made it first and goal. Ryan has had wide open receivers and has been a step ahead of the Green Bay defense.

At halftime the Falcons have 325 total yards and the Packers have 127. The Falcons have run 46 plays to the Packers’ 21.

The Packers will get the ball to start the second half.

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Falcons finagle touchback after fumble near end zone

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Ripkowski fumbles the ball during the first half of the NFL football NFC championship game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) AP

As Packers fullback Aaron Ripkowski bulldozed toward a touchdown, he lost the ball. Falcons safety Jalen Collins pounced at the one and then rolled into the end zone.

The officials ruled it was a touchback.

Arguably, Collins gave himself up at the one. Arguably, he deliberately took the ball into the end zone, possibly making it a safety.

Regardless, the issue was glossed over by the officials and by the FOX broadcast. Since it was a turnover, any challenge would have come from the replay booth.

It would be nice to know why the play was ruled the way that it was, and why the ruling wasn’t Atlanta ball at its one or two points for Green Bay.

UPDATE 4:17 p.m. ET: NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino says via Twitter that, because Collins gained possession at the one with his leg touching the goal line, it’s a touchback. If his leg hadn’t been touching the goal line, the Falcons would have had the ball at the one. The FOX broadcast still hasn’t explained the ruling.

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Ryan runs for score as Falcons extend lead

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons looks to pass in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Matt Ryan and the Falcons keep converting third downs, keep moving the chains and keep scoring.

They lead the Packers, 17-0, midway through the second quarter of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

Ryan ran 14 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-0. He threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu on the game’s first drive, and he’s had a bunch of wide open receivers on the first three possessions.

Packers fullback Aaron Ripkowski fumbled inside the Falcons’ 10-yard line early in the second quarter, and Falcons safety Jalen Collins recovered in the end zone for a touchback as the Falcons preserved a 10-0 lead. The Packers have moved the ball on both of their possessions but have missed a field goal and fumbled.

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Falcons dominate first quarter, lead 10-0

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons passes the ball in the first half against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons hold a 10-0 lead over the Packers after one quarter in the NFC Championship Game.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is off to a hot start. Ryan is 11-of-16 for 125 yards and had two passes that would have been big gains dropped.

Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu caught the game’s first touchdown and has been busy. He has four catches for 46 yards and a rush for seven yards.

The Packers moved inside the Falcons’ 25-yard line on their first possession but stalled and Mason Crosby missed a 41-yard field goal. Crosby had made 23 consecutive field goals; it was also the first missed field goal of the entire playoffs.

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