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Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur sees similarities to his former team, the Falcons

There will be plenty of time for visiting, especially after the game.

That's why Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, the Atlanta Falcons' quarterbacks coach the previous two seasons, has a timeline for pregame reunions Saturday when the Rams host the Falcons in an NFC wild-card playoff game at the Coliseum.

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"You try to get the meet-and-greet out of the way early and then go back into the locker room and just kind of just get your mind right for the game," LaFleur said Thursday, adding, "Try not to ever distract from what you're there to do."

After helping the Falcons reach the Super Bowl last season with the NFL's highest-scoring offense, LaFleur was hired by first-year Rams coach Sean McVay to aid in overhauling what was the league's worst offense in 2016.

McVay calls the plays, but LaFleur's fingerprints also are on a dynamic Rams offense that averaged a league-leading 29.9 points per game.

LaFleur, 38, also has combined with McVay and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson to develop second-year quarterback Jared Goff into a top-10 passer.

Studying the Rams' offense, Falcons coach Dan Quinn recognizes LaFleur's contribution.

"I've definitely seen Matt's influence along with Sean's on there," Quinn said, adding, "There is carryover for sure."

Less than a year after being part of a team that came within two quarters of defeating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, LaFleur is working to eliminate the Falcons and help the Rams advance in their first playoff appearance since 2004.

There are similarities in team cultures, he said.

"Dan Quinn, obviously, I learned a lot from him in terms of how to lead and bring a football team together and play for more than just yourself," LaFleur said. "I think Sean's done an unbelievable job here instilling those same values and really changing the culture here, and it's a close-knit group."

LaFleur also noted similarities in skill-position talent.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed 64.7% of his passing attempts for 4,095 yards and 20 touchdowns with 12 intercepted passes during the regular season.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed 64.7% of his passing attempts for 4,095 yards and 20 touchdowns with 12 intercepted passes during the regular season. (Butch Dill / Associated Press)

The Falcons feature quarterback Matt Ryan, the 2016 NFL most valuable player, running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and a receiver corps that features Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel.

Goff distributes the ball to running back Todd Gurley — an MVP candidate — and receivers such as Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp.

"Both [teams] have two of the more elite groups in this league," LaFleur said. "There's going to be a lot of explosive weaponry on the offensive side of the ball."

It starts, of course, with the quarterbacks.

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Ryan, the No. 3 pick in the 2008 draft, was in his eighth season when LaFleur joined the Falcons' staff. Goff, the No. 1 pick in 2016, was coming off a tough rookie season when McVay hired LaFleur.

Ryan already had "nailed his process in terms of his preparation, how he went about his business on a weekly basis," LaFleur said. Goff is young and "working through that process and growing," he said.

"You're dealing with a guy who's played a lot of ball — he's seen everything he's going to see," LaFleur said of Ryan. "And you're playing with another guy who's in the infant stages of his career."

LaFleur spent this week game-planning for a Falcons defense that has shown marked improvement. Last season, the Falcons gave up 371.2 yards and 25.4 points per game. This season, they are surrendering 318.4 yards and 19.7 points per game.

"They are so much more experienced, and it really shows through," LaFleur said, adding, "They've got great speed across the board and you can tell that those guys have played together for a while now."

McVay and other coaches on the Rams' staff have tapped LaFleur for information about the Falcons.

But not too much, LaFleur said.

"They study the film," he said. "They know what Atlanta's going to do.

"I feel like there's a happy medium. … I just kind of leave them alone. If they have a question, I'm here for them and I'll try to do the best I can, but it's not like I'm sitting there studying their tape."

LaFleur has the ability to turn a lot of valuable information about the Falcons into "small bite-sized increments for coaches and players," McVay said.

"But it's not something that will slow down and kind of make you overthink some things," McVay said.

LaFleur is looking forward to Saturday's game but not, he said, because it is against his former team.

"When Saturday arrives and I start to see a lot of those guys, then it will kind of hit you a little bit," he said, "But to be honest with you, our preparation's just like any other week."

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

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