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 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 Atlanta led from start to finish in a 31-18 victory over the Lions on Saturday night.
Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s NFL single-season yards receiving mark of 1,848. Johnson also became the only player with 100 yards receiving in eight straight games and the first with 10 receptions in four games in a row in league history. He had 11 receptions for 225 yards, giving him 1,892 this season.
“When Matt (Stafford) and I are on the field together, some special things can happen,” Johnson said. “We said before the game that we wanted to try to get it tonight.”
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 remaining that gave them a 15-point lead.
Ryan was 25 of 32 for 279 yards without a turnover.
Detroit (4-11) dropped its seventh straight game.
The Falcons hope playing at home, potentially throughout the conference playoffs, helps them more than it did after the 2010 and 1980 seasons. The Falcons failed to win a game in either postseason, getting routed by Green Bay two years ago and blowing a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead to Dallas three decades ago.
Atlanta advanced to its only Super bowl with a win at Minnesota after winning a franchise-record 14 games during the 1998 season.
The Falcons won’t have much incentive to match that mark next week at home against Tampa Bay, when they’ll have nothing to gain and something to lose if a key player or more gets hurt.
The Lions, meanwhile, have been relegated to playing for pride this month and that hasn’t been going very well.
Detroit, which has the longest active losing streak in the league, hasn’t had this long of a skid since it had one lasting an entire season when the laughingstock of a franchise became the league’s first to go 0-16 in 2008.
The Falcons led 21-3 at halftime before letting the Lions cut it to five points early in the fourth quarter.
Ryan dashed Detroit’s comeback hopes.
Facing intense pressure, he converted a third down in Atlanta territory with a pass to White, picked on rookie cornerback Jonte Green by throwing to Jones to pick up more first downs and found Tony Gonzalez open to convert another third down to set up his fourth TD pass.