LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons jumped to an early 13-point lead earlier than the Rams mounted two swift scoring drives. Los Angeles went to the Coliseum locker room at halftime with only a three-point deficit amid raucous cheers from a house crowd thirsty for playoff success.
And then Matt Ryan and the robust, examined Falcons confirmed the upstart Rams what postseason poise is all about.
Ryan handed for 218 yards and hit Julio Jones for an Eight-yard landing with 5:48 to play, and the defending NFC champion Falcons superior from the wild-card spherical with a 26-13 victory over the Rams on Saturday evening.
Devonta Freeman rushed for an early rating and Matt Bryant kicked 4 area targets for the Falcons (11-6), who spoiled the Rams’ first playoff recreation in 13 years with a methodical efficiency derived from hard-earned expertise.
Atlanta’s journey to the Super Bowl final season ended infamously with that blown 28-Three lead in opposition to New England. In their first playoff recreation since, the Falcons allowed no surprises from the NFC West champion Rams (11-6).
“We knew it was a state of affairs we have been via earlier than,” Atlanta defensive sort out Dontari Poe stated. “We simply needed to hold taking part in and use what we have discovered.”
Jones caught 9 passes for 94 yards for Atlanta, which by no means trailed whereas successful playoff video games in consecutive seasons for the primary time in franchise historical past. Against an opponent that had simply six gamers on its roster with prior postseason appearances, the Falcons’ expertise confirmed via.
“I believe having gone via these conditions, understanding what it is like, the ambiance, these sorts of issues, figuring out that it’ll be robust, all these issues type of carry ahead,” Ryan stated. “But on the finish of the day, expertise or no expertise, you have to execute.”
The Falcons superior to face the top-seeded Eagles on Jan. 13 in Philadelphia.
“Doesn’t matter the place we’re going, we’re going,” Ryan stated. “And that is essentially the most thrilling half.”
A raucous crowd of 74,300 packed the Coliseum on a crisp night for the primary NFL playoff recreation in the nation’s second-largest metropolis since early 1994. Los Angeles went 21 years with out professional soccer earlier than the Rams returned final season, and the franchise emphatically ended a 13-year streak of non-winning seasons this fall with an inspiring run to the Rams’ first division title since 2003.
But the Falcons have been right here earlier than, and so they confirmed it.
The Falcons jumped to their early lead by capitalizing on two errors by Pharoh Cooper, the Rams’ Pro Bowl kick returner. Atlanta’s offense then chewed up the clock and area place, with the primary drive after halftime consuming Eight:15.
“To finish with a time of possession over 37 minutes, that is onerous to do in our league,” Atlanta coach Dan Quinn stated. “There was a nine-minute drive to start out the second half, and I believed that actually set the tone.”
The Falcons’ protection did greater than sufficient to decelerate the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, harassing Jared Goff right into a 24-for-45 efficiency in his playoff debut.
“They did an actual good job there transferring the ball up the sphere and conserving us on the sideline,” Goff stated. “That can certain get you out of your rhythm.”
Robert Woods caught 9 passes for 142 yards for the Rams, however rookie Cooper Kupp scored their solely landing late in the primary half.
Atlanta held MVP candidate Todd Gurley to 101 yards speeding — simply 43 in the primary three quarters — and 4 receptions for a mere 10 yards.
The Falcons ruined a celebratory evening for the Rams, who rebounded from a tough homecoming season in 2016 with an excellent debut 12 months underneath 31-year-old Sean McVay, the youngest head coach to achieve the playoffs in NFL historical past.
“You see why the Falcons are the defending NFC champs,” McVay stated. “Certainly this can be a humbling recreation. … This is an expertise that we are able to be taught from. But I do not assume this recreation was too large for our guys.”
The Rams’ offense lastly figured it out late in the primary half: Goff made a number of sharp throws on a 79-yard drive ending in Kupp’s TD catch, and Sam Ficken’s first area objective trimmed the halftime deficit to 13-10.
But the Rams’ protection merely could not get off the sphere in the third quarter, whether or not as a result of missed tackles or intelligent play-calling by the Falcons.
Los Angeles trimmed the result in 19-13 with 10:49 to play, however the Falcons made one other drive highlighted by a wonderful 52-yard display screen cross from a blitz-avoiding Bryant to Mohamed Sanu.
Jones then caught the sixth playoff TD cross of his profession. Goff drove the Rams deep into Falcons territory, however LA turned it over on down on the Atlanta 5 with 2:05 to play. The Falcons stopped the Rams once more on downs at midfield with 1:08 left.
Although the Falcons’ offense took a step again in manufacturing this season, Atlanta chipped away on the Rams’ protection all through the Coliseum return of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who coached USC right here till 2015.
Ryan was methodical underneath relentless stress from All-Pro lineman Aaron Donald, repeatedly avoiding hassle and making large throws. Freeman rushed for 66 yards, and Sanu had that key 52-yard acquire on a display screen cross.
“Great name by Sark,” Ryan stated.
Cooper is headed to the Pro Bowl after his excellent common season as a kick returner, however the second-year professional’s misadventures in his playoff debut value the Rams dearly.
He muffed a punt that bounced off teammate Blake Countess in the primary quarter, and Bryant subsequently hit the Falcons’ first area objective. After Bryant’s second area objective later in the quarter, Cooper received stripped by Damontae Kazee throughout a kickoff return on the Rams 32, and the Falcons drove for Freeman’s quick TD run.
After the Falcons’ defensive efficiency in opposition to Goff, they seem like a possible downside for the highly effective Eagles with out quarterback Carson Wentz in the early Saturday divisional playoff recreation.
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