NFC Wild Card Weekend: Falcons Defeat Rams
Falcons Defeat Rams to Advance
The No. 6 seed Atlanta Falcons defeated the NFC West Champion Los Angeles Rams 26-13 on Saturday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
The Falcons struck early in the game, as they forced two turnovers on special teams from Los Angeles return man Pharoh Cooper. Those forced turnovers resulted in two Matt Bryant field goals (29, 51) and a three-yard Devonta Freeman rushing touchdown for a 13-0 lead.
However, the Rams would not go quietly in the second quarter, as they scored ten unanswered points to cut the lead to 13-10. It all started when quarterback Jared Goff threw an absolute dime to rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp for a 14-yard touchdown. Rookie kicker Sam Ficken would then kick a 35-yard field goal.
The second half remained rather quiet, as Bryant kicked two field goals (25, 54) to Ficken’s one (32), resulting in a 19-13 lead for Atlanta late in the fourth quarter. However, the Falcons would use their playoff experience to itch out the victory. Quarterback Matt Ryan would toss a screen pass to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who would take it a whopping 52-yards. The victory would be essentially sealed as Ryan would throw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones.
Despite Todd Gurley rushing for 101 yards, the Atlanta defense slowed him down for the majority of the game. This, in turn, forced Rams head coach Sean McVay to abandon the run, leading to a heavy pass attack. The Rams would call 16 running plays, compared to 45 passing plays.
Ryan would finish the game with 218 receiving yards and one touchdown (21-of-30 pass completions), compared to Goff’s 259 yards and one touchdown (25-of-45 pass completions). Robert Woods would be the leading receiver of the entire game, hauling in nine catches for 142 yards. Atlanta’s Jones would also have nine catches for 94 yards and the victory-sealing touchdown.
The unsung hero for the Rams was defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who absolutely burst through the Atlanta o-line all game. On 34 defensive snaps, Donald had ten quarterback hurries, two run stops, and one sack. Unfortunately for him, the performance was all for naught, as the Rams were shown the door early this playoffs
The Falcons now advance to the NFC Divisional Round, where they face off against the No. 1 seed Philadelphia Eagles.