Wild Card weekend gave us some awesome matchups, come-from-behind wins, and big plays that seemed to put the game out of reach. One such game was the Falcons-Rams in Los Angeles. A game in which the Falcons showed that they have no Super Bowl hangover.
The last time we saw the Falcons, they had blown a big lead in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots and lost in overtime. That was not the case in this one.
The Falcons jumped out to a 13-0 lead and never looked back, holding off the Rams to win it 26-13 on Saturday at the L.A. Coliseum.
Takeaways From The Falcons-Rams Wild Card Game
Takeaways From The Falcons
The Falcons spent most of the day running the ball down the Rams’ defensive throats. On the first play of the game, they ran the ball 11 of the 13 plays on the opening drive. Devonta Freeman got more yards on the first play of the third quarter (22) than he had in the first half (20).
The Falcons’ ability to run the ball helped quarterback Matt Ryan. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown in the final half of the game. Most of that went to Julio Jones, who caught five passes for 50 yards and a touchdown in that second half. It might not seem like much, but the Falcons ran the ball most of the game and gained big yards as a result.
Atlanta completely took over in the second half. They lit up the Rams and they showed they’re not a pushover like they were in the Super Bowl, particularly in the second half. They went out there, they knew what they needed to do, and they took advantage of a poor-playing Rams team to come out on top.
Takeaways From The Rams
Many Hoped that this Rams team wouldn’t come out like the one in Week 17 against the 49ers, but they did indeed. Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Aaron Donald didn’t play in that game, but the team gave up 34 points against the Niners and their defense didn’t look great.
Let’s face it: The same could be said in this one, but there was one area that killed them: special teams.
One incident, in particular, happened in the first quarter when the Rams forced the Falcons into a punting situation. After it was kicked, the Rams’ Pharoh Cooper signaled a fair catch, but then started moving around. That moving caused some confusion with his teammate, Blake Countess. The ball bounced off Countess’ foot, hit Cooper, and eventually landed 20 yards back, where the Falcons would recover.
Holding the Falcons to a 29-yard field goal helped save some of the embarrassment of that play. Cooper would turn it over again on a heads up play by the Falcons’ Damontae Kazee. The turnover would lead to a Falcons touchdown.
Going into this game, the Rams turned the ball over only twice all season in the first quarter. Not this game. They turned it over twice against an explosive Falcons team.
The Rams offense didn’t help much either. Atlanta kept Gurley in check, limiting him to only 14 carries for 101 yards. Just two runs of 26 and 33 pretty much summed up his night. Gurley only had 10 receiving yards on the night; the Falcons were on him every time he went out of the backfield, either running or passing.
Falcons Win It Or Rams Lose It?
The way the Rams played on Saturday was inexcusable. This team has played excellent football all the season up to this point. The fact that they couldn’t get anything going on offense and special teams hurt their efforts.
Another fact that hurt the Rams was the decision to bench their starters in Week 17. For a young team that’s up-and-coming, you really can’t give any time off. When Tom Brady does it, it’s an attempt to rest the greatest, and oldest, quarterback in the league. Goff is not Brady. He’s young and improving and he’s got to be out there helping his team whenever possible. Experience and consistency will help young players in this league.
The Falcons knew what their game plan was. They shut down a great offensive weapon in Gurley and they ran the ball down the Rams’ throats. The Falcons won this game, but one can also argue that the Rams lost it. L.A. made many mistakes that they hadn’t been making for this season.
The Falcons are moving on to the Divisional Round where they’ll get another chance against Philadelphia. The Rams will remain at home and try to figure out what happened.