Rams’ season ends with a 26-13 loss to the playoff-tested Falcons in NFC wild-card game
The Rams, making their first playoff appearance since 2004, found out the hard way on Saturday at the Coliseum.
The Atlanta Falcons, a year removed from their Super Bowl meltdown, muted the Rams’ high-scoring offense and took advantage of special teams miscues en route to a 26-13 victory in an NFC wild-card playoff game before a crowd of 74,300.
Falcons 26, Rams 13: Ryan slips, and still delivers a touchdown throw to Jones
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan made the play of the night with his back foot slipping out from underneath him, somehow dropping a lobbed pass right to Julio Jones for what could be a put-away touchdown.
After the incredible throw and the extra point that followed, the Falcons lead 26-13 with only 5:48 remaining in the game.
Falcons 19, Rams 13: Gurley powers field-goal drive
Todd Gurley, a non-factor for much of the game, finally broke loose for back-to-back runs for more than 10 yards including a 33-yard gain down the far sideline. But Atlanta sacked Jared Goff with the Rams inside the 20, eventually forcing a field goal.
Sam Ficken’s 32-yard kick split the uprights and made it a one-possession game, 19-13, with 10:49 left in the game.
Falcons 19, Rams 10: Another field-goal attempt for Matt Bryant, another three points
Atlanta put points on the board for a second-straight trip down the field, getting a 54-yard field goal from Matt Bryant – his fourth of the game.
The Falcons continued to chew clock while moving the ball, with the Rams essentially only getting one possession in the third quarter.
With 19 seconds left in the third, Atlanta leads 19-10.
Falcons 16, Rams 10: L.A. forces Atlanta to settle for a field goal
The Falcons came out and started the second half with a strong drive, relying on their running attack to get deep into Rams’ territory. But instead of punching it in for a touchdown, the Falcons stalled and had to settle for a 25-yard field goal to cap a drive that lasted more than 7 minutes.
With 6:45 left in the third quarter, Atlanta leads 16-10.
Falcons 13, Rams 10: Ficken cuts into Atlanta’s lead with a 35-yard field goal
Special teams miscues and Jared Goff’s slow start helped spot the Falcons a 13-0 lead, but Goff caught fire late in the second quarter.
After throwing a scoring pass to Cooper Kupp, Goff led the Rams back down the field in the final two minutes, hitting Robert Woods on beautiful throw and catch.
While they didn’t get in the end zone, the Rams ended the half with points on Sam Ficken’s 35-yard field goal.
The Rams trail 13-10 after scoring on two-straight possessions.
Falcons 13, Rams 7: Goff drops a dime for Kupp to get L.A. on the board
Jared Goff survived a rocky start to settle in late in the second quarter after a long run from Todd Gurley got the Rams in rhythm. Goff took advantage of Gurley’s 26-yard run (and a 15-yard late hit penalty) to eventually find rookie Cooper Kupp on a 14-yard touchdown pass.
After the kick, the Rams trail only 13-7 with 2:30 left in the second quarter.
Rams’ Michael Brockers shaken up after sack of Falcons’ Matt Ryan
Michael Brockers came up with the Rams’ first sack of Matt Ryan as both he and Aaron Donald met at the quarterback in the second quarter on third down. However, Brockers was shaken up after the play after catching an elbow from Donald as they wrapped up the quarterback.
Brockers eventually got up and walked gingerly off the field under his own power.
Brockers had 4.5 sacks in the regular season to Donald’s 11.
Falcons 13, Rams 0: Devonta Freeman scores on a four-yard carry
After Pharoh Cooper’s fumble, Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense began to use short passes to negate the Rams’ pass rush, moving down near the end zone before running back Devonta Freeman’s three-yard run for the game’s first touchdown.
After the extra point, Atlanta leads 13-0 with 11:34 left in first half.
Rams special teams commit another turnover before second quarter
Following Bryant’s second field goal, All-Pro kick returner Pharoh Cooper fumbled on the very next play, with safety Damontae Kazee forcing the ball loose and recovering it, setting up the Falcons in Rams territory at the end of the first quarter.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff completed just one pass in the opening quarter for just three yards as Atlanta is set to add to a 6-0 lead.
Falcons 6, Rams 0: L.A. holds Atlanta to another field goal
Atlanta put together the first sustained offensive drive of the game, with Matt Ryan avoiding the pressure from the Rams’ front to make big completions to Mohamed Sanu and Julio Jones.
The Rams held on the third down to force a long kick, but Matt Bryant’s 51-yard field goal to put the Falcons up 6-0.
Falcons 3, Rams 0: Atlanta converts a botched punt return into a field goal
The Rams’ defense has been spectacular early Saturday night, but after a mistake like Blake Countess’, even it couldn’t hold.
Countess had a punt bounce off his foot and Atlanta recovered, setting up Matt Bryant’s 29-yard field goal.
The Rams trail 3-0 with 7:13 left in the first quarter with neither offense gaining a first down.
Falcons’ Takkarist McKinley ends Rams drive with a sack of Jared Goff
Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley recorded his first postseason sack of the game in the first quarter with a takedown of Rams quarterback Jared Goff on third and two.
McKinley, a rookie out of UCLA, had six sacks with two forced fumbles for the Falcons during the regular season.
Rams-Falcons 10 minutes away from kickoff
Sights and sounds ahead of the Rams-Falcons playoff game
Live from the sideline: A pregame video report from Lindsey Thiry and Gary Klein
Rams vs. Falcons: inactives
Video: Rams players describe making the playoffs in one word
After asking Rams players midway through the season what it meant to be 6-2 in one word, The Times’ Lindsey Thiry follows up asking them to do it again to describe finishing 11-5 and playoff football.
Sammy Watkins has provided a new slant at wide receiver for the playoff-bound Rams
The main attraction was the deep-ball possibilities.
After the Rams traded for receiver Sammy Watkins during training camp, Rams coach Sean McVay raved about Watkins’ ability to “stretch the field vertically.”
Watkins occasionally has flashed that skill by blowing past defenders while running a near straight line, but he has been most effective working angles, particularly near the goal line.
High-school years gave Rams coach Sean McVay his first taste of fame
The legend of Sean McVay only grows at the Marist School, a sprawling campus of red-brick buildings tucked into the hilly suburbs just north of Atlanta.
It wasn’t so long ago that the 31-year-old Rams wunderkind — the likely NFL coach of the year — thrilled Marist students and fans, not with his headset wizardry but with his forehead-slapping, ankle-snapping moves as a high school quarterback.
McVay’s game video was like a video game. The bright-eyed kid with straight and shaggy blond hair (not spiked like now) was so good that he was named 2003 State Player of the Year in Georgia, edging future Detroit Lions star Calvin Johnson in the process.
Get your Falcons-Rams playoff merchandise
Rams vs. Falcons: How they match up
RAMS (11-5) VS. ATLANTA FALCONS (10-6)
When the Rams have the ball
The Rams finished the regular season with the NFL’s highest-scoring offense, averaging 29.9 points per game.
After sitting out last week’s defeat to the San Francisco 49ers, quarterback Jared Goff is looking to pick up where he left off — he passed for a game-winning touchdown against the Tennessee Titans. Goff is completing 62% of his passes, 28 for touchdowns with seven interceptions.
Coach Sean McVay’s decision to keep running back Todd Gurley out of harm’s way last week cost Gurley the NFL rushing title, but Gurley — who has rushed for 1,305 yards and scored an NFL-best 19 touchdowns — has said that he was fine with the decision because McVay has pushed the right buttons all season.
Receivers Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp also sat out last week. The offensive line also should be fresh because left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan did not play against the 49ers in order to rest and heal. Atlanta is giving up 19.7 points per game, which ranks eighth in the NFL.
Falcons linebacker Deion Jones has a team-best 138 tackles and three interceptions. End Adrian Clayborn has 9 1/2 sacks and end Takkarist McKinley has six for a defense that has improved from last season.
When the Falcons have the ball
The Falcons do not boast the same offense that led the NFL in scoring in 2016.
Former USC coach Steve Sarkisian replaced Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator for a unit that is averaging 22.1 points a game (tied for 14th best in the league). But nearly all the key players remain in place.
Quarterback Matt Ryan, the NFL’s 2016 most valuable player, has passed for 20 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.
Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have combined to rush for nearly 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns. Coleman also has three touchdown catches, Freeman one. The running backs are two of seven players with 20 or more receptions.
Receiver Julio Jones has a team-best 88 catches for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns. Mohamed Sanu has 67 receptions, five for touchdowns. Tight end Austin Hooper has three touchdown catches.
Tackle Aaron Donald leads the Rams defense, and he and other starters should be rested and ready after sitting out against the 49ers. Donald has 11 sacks, and linebacker Robert Quinn 8 1/2. Linebacker Mark Barron was sidelined for most of the last three games but is expected to return from an Achilles injury. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson will probably match up against Jones.
When they kick
Sam Ficken bounced back from a rough start in his Rams debut against Tennessee and kicked two field goals against the 49ers. The rookie said he was confident heading into the playoffs.
Johnny Hekker, averaging 47.9 yards per punt, could play a crucial role if he is able to pin the Falcons deep in their territory. Pro Bowl kick returner Pharoh Cooper suffered a shoulder injury last week but is expected to play.
Matt Bryant has made 34 of 39 field-goal attempts for the Falcons. Punter Matt Bosher averages 44.9 yards per kick.
Andre Roberts returns kickoffs and punts.
Gary Klein’s prediction
The Falcons dominated in the first half of last season’s Super Bowl and then suffered an epic second-half collapse. Still, they’ve been here before.
The Rams are in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, but if Gurley gets rolling ...
RAMS 24, FALCONS 20
Video: Previewing the Rams’ playoff game against the Falcons
The Times’ Gary Klein and Lindsey Thiry preview the Rams’ NFC wild-card playoff against the Atlanta Falcons.