Forget the geriatric backups, the day belonged to the Atlanta Falcons’ Jamal Anderson.
Atlanta’s Steve DeBerg, 44, the NFL’s oldest player, had a marginal advantage over St. Louis Ram backup Steve Bono, 36, in the second half of the Falcons’ 21-10 victory Sunday.
But Anderson did the heavy work with a career-best 188 yards in 31 carries and a touchdown as the NFC West leaders clinched a playoff berth earlier than they ever have.
The Falcons (10-2) qualified for the playoffs after 13 games in 1980.
DeBerg came on in the second half after Tony Graziani helped produce only three points in the first half starting in the place of the injured Chris Chandler.
DeBerg threw the go-ahead touchdown pass, a 27-yard play to Terance Mathis in the third quarter, but more important to the Falcons was a turnover-free performance.
Though he was only five for 12 for 75 yards, DeBerg was an improvement over Graziani, who was eight for 18 for 102 yards with an interception.
“I feel better than any 44-year old in the whole world,” DeBerg said.
Chandler, sidelined with ankle and knee injuries, hopes to be back next Sunday against Indianapolis.
The Rams also had quarterback problems, with Bono replacing Tony Banks in the second half. Vermeil said he didn’t know which player would start Thursday at Philadelphia.
Banks shook off an ankle injury to start his 41st consecutive game but was booed heavily and left in the third quarter after going 10 for 21 for 95 yards. He said it was the first time he’s ever been benched. “It happens to the best of them,” Banks said.
Bono, who was six for 13 for 54 yards, had little time to throw behind an ineffective offensive line.