Saturday Night wrap-up: Falcons advance with 26-13 win over Rams

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The Rams hosted their first NFL playoff game in Los Angeles since 1986. The NFC West title and the league’s highest-scoring offense generated interest and created excitement in L.A. for its NFC team.

The Rams sold 74,300 tickets for Saturday night’s game, and Rams fans showed up to cheer on the home team.

But the Rams spoiled the party.

The home team fell behind 13-0, never led and lost 26-13 to the Falcons. Atlanta, as the sixth seed, will play at Philadelphia next week.

The defending NFC champions would not be denied, holding the potent Rams offense to 13 points and forcing two turnovers on special teams against the NFL’s best special teams unit.

It put an end to a two-game run of comebacks in the postseason. The Patriots, of course, rallied from a 28-3 deficit in the Super Bowl to end the 2016 season, and the Titans opened the 2017 playoffs with a win despite falling behind 21-3.

The Falcons held off the upstart Rams, who closed to within 13-10 at halftime, with a team effort.

Kicker Matt Bryant made field goals of 29, 51, 25 and 54 yards.

Linebacker Deion Jones made 10 tackles, including one for loss, and had a pass breakup.

Quarterback Matt Ryan, sacked three times in the first half, completed 21 of 30 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Julio Jones caught nine passes for 94 yards and a touchdown.

Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman returned to being the two-headed monster with a combined 32 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown.

Here are five more things we learned during Saturday Night Football:

1. Momentum matters.

The Falcons, after a 7-5 start, were a desperate team the last month of the season. They won three of their last four, including a 22-10 victory over the Panthers in Week 17.

The Falcons have not played as well as they did last season, but they are finding ways to win.

The Rams clinched the NFC West in their next-to-last game — a 27-23 victory over the Titans — so they chose to rest several of their star players in the regular-season finale. Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, Aaron Donald and other top players stayed on the sideline as the 49ers rolled Los Angeles 34-13 last week.

It’s a catch 22 for sure: Playing key players in a game without significant meaning comes with great risk, but there is something to be said for readying for the playoffs with playoff-like games.

2. Playoff experience matters.

The Rams had only six players on their roster with previous playoff experience. Gurley, Donald and Goff were among those playing in the postseason for the first time.

It showed at the start as the Rams looked uneasy and out of sorts in the first quarter when they gained only 14 yards. They scored the final 10 points of the first half and appeared to grab the momentum going into halftime, but they could never get over the hump against the veteran Falcons.

Atlanta has 36 players on its roster with 174 postseason games among them. The Falcons have been here, won here.

The Rams aren’t going anywhere. With a young core, they should return to the postseason many times in the coming years and will be better prepared the next time they get back.

3. Gurley deserves every postseason award he gets, but the Falcons defense deserves credit for what they did Saturday night.

Gurley averaged more than 175 scrimmage yards per game in his last five games, but the Falcons held the MVP candidate to 111 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches.

The Rams gained 361 yards, but they reached the end zone only once. Cooper Kupp caught a 14-yard pass from Goff in the second quarter.

4. The NFL needs to do a better job of ensuring better field conditions.

The Coliseum field was awful, with players slipping and sliding all night. Ryan nearly went down untouched on his 8-yard touchdown pass to Jones in the fourth quarter, but several other players couldn’t keep their footing.

The league is fortunate no player was seriously injured because of the poor field conditions.

5. Is Julio back?

The Falcons receiver had a down season — or as down as a 1,444-yard season can be. He managed only four games over 100 yards this season and only three touchdowns.

Jones almost reached 100 yards against the Rams, coming up only 6 yards short, and his touchdown catch was his first since Week 11 against Tampa Bay when he scored twice.

The Falcons will need Julio to be Julio if they are to have a chance to do what they did last season.

45 responses to “Saturday Night wrap-up: Falcons advance with 26-13 win over Rams

  1. Rest in week 17=Rust in postseason=Long Rest for Rest of playoffs

    The current Missouri team and the former Missouri team go out in a 1-2 punch

    The Show me state was more like the Show me nothing state tonight!

  2. Rams were not the same team during the season. They looked nervous and made mistakes. The awful field did not help. Defense almost always wins over a good offense in the playoffs.

  3. give credit where it’s do… Falcons traveled to west coast which at times is challenging for east coast teams… Silenced the #1 scoring offense… As the only nfc team in the playoffs from last year.. Overcoming the “Super Bowl hangover”..
    Congrats Falcons!

  4. When will folks start to respect the fact that the falcons aren’t a fluke…they have a solid team that wins games. Yeah I know…the epic collapse will always be there but they can win and they can win the big one.

  5. The one area Mcvay was naive about was the lack of playoff experience his team had and it showed up on special teams especially with P Cooper who looked like he never fielded a punt in his life.

  6. The rams are alot better than the Eagles which means the falcons will destroy the Eagles with ease 42-13.
    The saints will beat the Panthers tomorrow but will lose to the vikings next week.
    The vikings will beat the falcons in the nfc championship game with shutdown defense and mvp play from keenum.
    It doesn’t matter who comes out of the afc. The vikings will shutdown those elderly senior citizen qbs in new England and Pittsburgh. The jaguars are the best team in the afc.

  7. I think it was pretty obvious going in (to ppl that actually know football) the Rams would have a very hard time moving the football on that secondary. Just bad matchups across the board for the Rams. The only real edge they had going in was their D-line against the Atlanta O-line. Sammy stone hands Watkins also didn’t disappoint

  8. Another idiot coach who thought he was smarter than Belichek…

    Again, if the Pats don’t rest starters in week 17…why would you?…

    So Gurley threw away a legitimate shot at winning MVP…and claimed it was better for the future…. how’s the future working out for ya Todd…?

  9. The Rams’ roster wasn’t mature enough to take off the last week of the season with so few having playoff experience. Look at the two teams who lost today – they rested starters last week – and looked out of sync today.

  10. The NFC West title and the league’s highest-scoring offense generated interest and created excitement in L.A. for its NFC team…..

    Really? I heard that there was plenty of available seats together just a day or two before the game. The NFL forced a team (2 of them) into that market and it just doesn’t want it as badly as the NFL hoped for.

    1 team is enough.

  11. “Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman returned to being the two-headed monster with a combined 32 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown.”

    “3. Gurley deserves every postseason award he gets, but the Falcons defense deserves credit for what they did Saturday night.

    Gurley averaged more than 175 scrimmage yards per game in his last five games, but the Falcons held the MVP candidate to 111 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches.”

    ——
    Call me crazy but I fail to see how 2 players gaining 106 yards on 32 carries qualifies (3.3 ypc) as a 2 headed monster.

    Meanwhile Gurley gains 101 yards on only 14 carries (7.7 ypc) and this somehow is an example of the Falcons’ defensive prowess.

  12. So the teams that rested players, lost.

    What legendary coach ever rested players?

    McVay will learn but I doubt Reid will. He seems unwilling to learn while McVay will evolve.

  13. You don’t mention the 2 fumbled kicks that led to 10 points for the Falcons, those surely significantly impacted the game.

    And I for one am getting really tired of the replays on “catches” that are slightly juggled as the receiver is hitting the ground. If it takes longer than 30 seconds to try to review what happened, then just go with the call on the field an quit delaying the game.

  14. Regarding the field conditions, Atlanta HC Quinn explained that OC Sarkisian had warned that the Coliseum field tends to develop condensation. So It appears that laying a new field really had nothing to do with the situation. It is difficult to see how this issue could have been avoided.

  15. Antonio Brown has about 100 yards more than Julio and he is All Pro.

    Looks like the NFC champ may come from the NFC South this year. All 3 teams have a better chance than Philadelphia. They just have to beat Minnesota.

  16. People don’t give the Falcons as much credit as they deserve. They had a few rough spots this season, but the played the toughest schedule of anyone in the post season, both conferences. They are going to be hard to beat in the playoffs. I think the Saints will represent the NFC in the SB, but the Falcons will play them tough in the NFCCG.

  17. There is no such thing as “momentum”, either in game or from game to game. Momentum or a lack thereof did not cause Cooper to fumble two kicks. Cooper played in the preceding game.

    Momentum did not cause the long winning streaks by the Warriors in the NBA, or the Packers winning streak to make the playoffs last year. Teams win because they have better players, preparation, and coaching, along with some lucky breaks. The amorphous concept of momentum has nothing to do with it.

  18. Matty Ice (Matt Ryan) is a Top 10 quarterback, but that won’t be enough to get past either the Saints/Brees or Cam-rolina which are better teams with more weapons on both O & D.

    One thing is for sure, just like the Saint Louie — oops! — L.A. Rams, the Philly Eagles too will be “one and done.” lol

  19. “how’s the future working out for ya Todd…”

    A year or two away from becoming the highest paid HB in the game….and he didn’t risk injury in a meaningless game. Working out fine if you ask me.

    Even if he doesn’t really believe in it, Belichick has rested starters before so there’s no point in continually bringing that up.

  20. The RAMS have been in LA for 2 Seasons now, there is NO EXCUSE for field condition being that bad for any game, LET ALONG A PLAYOFF!!! They and all future Teams who offer such field conditions should be FINED 10 times more than putting in a decent Field would cost!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Where are all those courageous talking heads that were pushing Wilson and Gurley for MVP because Brady only ended the season on an 11-1 streak as the number one seed. There’s “contrarian”, “look at me” and “I hate the Patriots” reasons for picks that passed on Brady as MVP. I prefer logic and results driven value.

  22. And I for one am getting really tired of the replays on “catches” that are slightly juggled as the receiver is hitting the ground. If it takes longer than 30 seconds to try to review what happened, then just go with the call on the field an quit delaying the game.
    ================
    if the ball never hits the ground, i dont care if it rolls the length of the players body – it should be a damn catch.
    WWNFL is ripe for a competitor that actually gives the fans what they want – FOOTBALL not CSI Pigskin!

  23. Rams spoiled the party?

    More like the Falcons crashed it.

    All this fluff about the Rams and their offense. 13 points VRS that nasty defense Atlanta has been fielding all year.

    Now the Falcons will move on to Philly and crush Nick Foles.

    Bank it!

  24. Thanks for coming Rams. You’re another one-year fluke like the 2015 Cardinals. Prepare to come crashing back to 8-8 reality next year. The Seahawks would have won the division this year even with all the injuries if they just had a league average kicker who make a 38-yard field goal. They will re-take the division next year easily.

    Collect your participation trophies on the way out.

  25. jason9696 says:

    The Rams have a young team they will be back next season. The Falcons have a great chance next weekend.
    ———————————–
    Tavon Austin 28 next year
    Mark Barron 29
    Brockers 29 + Knee
    Barwin 31
    Donald 27
    Trumaine Johnson 29
    Ogletree 27
    Quinn 28
    Saffold 30
    Sullivan 33
    Whitworth 37

    The window looks like 1 more year to me.

  26. Rams appeared somewhat nervous to start the game and made too many early mistakes … that said, if I were a Rams fan I’d be excited … they’re young, talented, well coached … they have a bright future.

  27. Not to blame the refs, because the Falcons played a better game, but the refs were terrible.
    Donald was hog-tied all night and facemasked once, but never drew a flag. There was potential of a safety on one occasion.
    Watkins was mugged in the end zone on the 4th down pass.
    And that was clearly “assisting the runner” (a 10 yard penalty) when Mack through Freeman into the endzone.

    Announcers said the refs didn’t want to decide the game, but, well, they might have.

  28. Rams failed on so many areas in the game.
    1. Field was a disgrace.
    2. Fans were there as Squirrel Head gave out tickets to fill the bowl. However,
    it was less than a playoff atmosphere.
    3. McVay was unprepared. Play calling was subject. Watkins was hardly targeted and
    Austin didn’t play at all. Gurley wasn’t utilized on screens enough.
    4. Falcons wore the Rams D line down in the third with two long running drives.
    5. McVay and Sullivan called the plays at the line for Goof all year. In the
    playoffs the Falcons exposed this by changing their D closer to the snap. Further,
    the Falcons watched film to tackle Gurley down at the legs and keep him from
    making yards after contact. Atlanta played playoff football and knew their
    opponent. The Rams didn’t do their homework. Did they even scout Atlanta?
    6. McVay should have played Goof, Gurley, against the 49rs. Goof still needs the
    reps and the off weak hurt their opening performance.
    7. The Rams have an aging OL, contracts with Watkins and Donald and work to do in
    the secondary and DE. Are they a playoff team next year?

  29. Rams need to protect the ball obviously.
    What really surprised me was how easily the Falcons DBs shut down the Rams wide outs. You just shouldn’t be able to play man coverage against NFL quality receivers like they did. Either they need to seriously upgrade their personnel or change their offensive game planning.

  30. Not a fan of either team. I watched McVay in the postgame and he seams like a smart guy with the right attitude. His coaching has turned that team around and the Rams look set up to be good for a long time. He impressed me.

  31. seahawkboymike says:
    January 7, 2018 at 10:23 am
    Thanks for coming Rams. You’re another one-year fluke like the 2015 Cardinals. Prepare to come crashing back to 8-8 reality next year. The Seahawks would have won the division this year even with all the injuries if they just had a league average kicker who make a 38-yard field goal. They will re-take the division next year easily.
    Collect your participation trophies on the way out.

    Dec 17th 2017- Rams 42- Seattle-7 played IN Seattle.

  32. schmitty2 says:
    January 8, 2018 at 10:59 am
    seahawkboymike says:
    January 7, 2018 at 10:23 am
    Thanks for coming Rams. You’re another one-year fluke like the 2015 Cardinals. Prepare to come crashing back to 8-8 reality next year. The Seahawks would have won the division this year even with all the injuries if they just had a league average kicker who make a 38-yard field goal. They will re-take the division next year easily.
    Collect your participation trophies on the way out.

    Dec 17th 2017- Rams 42- Seattle-7 played IN Seattle.
    __________________________________________________________

    Rams playoff record in last decade: 0-1.

  33. Rams couldn’t win a single playoff game with the leagues most productive offense and a solid defense? Atlanta’s DB’s are average at best. Did the Rams players think their SB was playing Seattle in the regular season? C’mon Rams you made the NFC West look WEAK!

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