Rams survive crazy sequence of fourth-quarter events in win over Falcons

Rams defenders Bobby Wagner, Marquise Copeland and Terrell Lewis tackle Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier.
Rams defenders Bobby Wagner (45), Marquise Copeland (93) and Terrell Lewis tackle Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier in the first quarter Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A Jalen Ramsey interception in the end zone during the final moments helped the Rams hold on for a 31-27 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at SoFi Stadium.

Rams lose luster but not game, blowing big lead before holding on to beat Falcons

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp runs past Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins on a touchdown catch.
Rams receiver Cooper Kupp runs past Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins on a touchdown catch in the third quarter of the Rams’ 31-27 win Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams waited 10 days to respond, a seeming eternity for a defending Super Bowl champion embarrassed in its season opener.

Coach Sean McVay and his players were eager to show that signs of a Super Bowl hangover were vastly overstated. They looked forward to demonstrating they could punch back.

And as it turned out Sunday, they also needed to survive nearly blowing a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead against the Atlanta Falcons.

All-Pro safety Jalen Ramsey all but ensured the win with a late interception in the end zone, and the Rams came out on top of a wild finish for a 31-27 victory at SoFi Stadium.

“Holy hell,” McVay said. “I need a couple drinks.”

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Jalen Ramsey’s end-zone interception rescues Rams in win over Falcons

FINAL — Rams 31, Falcons 27

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey picked off a Marcus Mariota pass intended for Bryan Edwards at the front of the end zone to dissolve the Falcons’ hopes of a comeback and secure the Rams’ first win of the season.

In an ploy to run time off the clock in the closing seconds of the game, Brandon Powell purposefully ran into the back of the end zone for a safety. Aaron Donald ended the game with a fumble recovery after Mariota dropped the ball while trying to evade Rams defenders on his Hail Mary try.

Matthew Stafford completed 27 of 36 passes for 272 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Cooper Kupp made 11 catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a fumble that allowed the Falcons to get into the red zone for what could have been a game-tying score before Ramsey’s heroics.

Mariota completed 17 of 26 passes for 196 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Falcons.


Falcons score TD off a blocked punt return to help make it six-point game

Rams 31, Falcons 25 — 4:57 left in the fourth quarter

In an incredible sequence of events, Atlanta’s Lorenzo Carter returned a blocked punt 26 yards for a touchdown before a successful two-point conversion made it a six-point game with less than five minutes to go in regulation.

Riley Dixon’s punt was blocked by Falcons linebacker Troy Anderson and promptly picked up by Carter, who ran unimpeded to the end zone. Marcus Mariota then found Drake London in the end zone on the two-point conversion try.

On the ensuing possession, the Rams committed another costly turnover, with Cooper Kupp losing the ball on a fumble to Atlanta’s Darren Hall after a 13-yard reception. The fumble recovery put the Falcons on the Rams’ 37 yard line and in prime position to potentially take the lead.


Falcons strike back quick with touchdown

Rams 31, Falcons 17 — 8:14 left in the fourth quarter

The Atlanta Falcons know they’re running out of time, and Marcus Mariota responded accordingly, with a speedy drive that culminated in an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus.

The touchdown capped an eight-play, 72-yard drive that only took 3:59 off the clock.

The Rams are still in control, but holding onto the ball — and killing time — will be a priority for Sean McVay’s crew on the next possession.


Matt Gay kicks 20-yard field goal to extend Rams’ lead

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford throws a pass against the Falcons in the second quarter at SoFi Stadium.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Rams 31, Falcons 10 — 12:13 left in fourth quarter

Matt Gay kicked a 20-yard field goal as the Rams began turning the game into a rout.

Gay’s field goal capped a 13-play, 78-yard drive.

The Rams two chances to score from the one-yard line, but quarterback Matthew Stafford missed on passes to receivers Allen Robinson and Cooper Kupp, bringing on Gay.

Gay kicked a 57-yard field goal in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.


Drake London scores touchdown for Falcons

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London celebrates with quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London celebrates with quarterback Marcus Mariota after scoring his first NFL touchdown Sunday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Rams 28, Falcons 10 — 3:20 left in third quarter

Marcus Mariota connected with receiver Drake London for a four-yard touchdown pass, trimming the Rams lead to 18 points.

Falcons linebacker Mykal Walker set up the touchdown by intercepting a pass by quarterback Matthew Stafford that was intended for Cooper Kupp.

London, the former USC standout, has five catches for 48 yards.

Stafford has completed 19 of 24 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions.


Cooper Kupp makes another touchdown catch for Rams

Rams offensive tackle Joe Noteboom, left, celebrates with Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Rams offensive tackle Joe Noteboom, left, celebrates with Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp after Kupp’s touchdown catch in the second quarter.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Rams 28, Falcons 3 — 9:22 left in the third quarter

Cooper Kupp caught a short pass in the right flat, slipped a defender and scored on a 10-yard touchdown pass to close out the Rams’ opening drive of the third quarter.

The Rams covered 75 yards in 10 plays during a drive that consumed 5 minutes and 38 seconds.

Stafford has completed 19 of 22 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception.

Kupp has seven catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns.

Tight end Tyler Higbee has six receptions for 64 yards.


Rams hold a 21-3 lead over Falcons at halftime

Rams 21, Falcons 3 — halftime

Rams rookie cornerback Cobie Durant intercepted a pass and returned it 51 yards, setting up Matthew Stafford’s three-yard touchdown pass to receiver Cooper Kupp.

Durant’s big play came after a Rams drive ended when Falcons cornerback Casey Heyward intercepted Matthew Stafford’s long pass to tight end Tyler Higbee in the end zone.

Stafford has completed 14 of 16 passes for 125 yards, including touchdowns to Kupp and Allen Robinson.

Higbee has five catches for 50 yards, Kupp four receptions for 35 yards and Robinson two catches for 16 yards.

Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota has completed eight of 15 passes for 105 yards.

Running back Cordarrelle Patterson has rushed for 32 yards in eight carries.


Falcons get on the board with 26-yard field goal

Rams 14, Falcons 3 — 2:44 left in second quarter

Younghoe Koo kicked a 26-yard field goal to cut the Rams’ lead to 11 points.

Marcus Mariota led the Falcons on an 11-play, 67-yard drive highlighted by Mariota’s completion on fourth-and-one at the Rams’ 13 yard-line. Mariota slipped and fell to the turf, but got up and completed a pass to tight end Parker Hesse.

The Falcons had to settle for the field goal when the Rams forced an incomplete pass on third-and-goal from the eight.

Rams cornerback Troy Hill suffered a groin injury during the drive and is questionable to return.


Rams take 14-0 lead on Darrell Henderson touchdown run

Rams running back Darrell Henderson scores a touchdown against the Falcons in the second quarter.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Rams 14, Falcons 0 — 9:30 left in second quarter

The Rams’ rushing attack is coming alive.

After gaining a league-low 52 yards in the season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills, Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers are producing against the Falcons.

Henderson’s eight-yard touchdown run put the Rams ahead, 14-0.

Coach Sean McVay said this week that Akers needed to show more urgency. Akers has responded by rushing for 24 yards in four carries.

Henderson picked up a key first down with a three-yard gain on a third-and-two play to set up his scoring run.

The defense set up the 50-yard scoring drive by stopping the Falcons on fourth and two.


Rams hold the lead at the end of the first quarter

Rams wide receiver Allen Robinson celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Falcons.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Rams 7, Falcons 0 — End of first quarter

Matthew Stafford has completed five of five passes for 48 yards and a touchdown in a Rams offense that features a new wrinkle.

Receiver Ben Skowronek is lining up as a fullback.

Receiver Allen Robinson has two catches for 16 yards, including a one-yard touchdown.

Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota has completed four of six passes for 35 yards.


Matthew Stafford connects with Allen Robinson for early TD

Rams 7, Falcons 0 — 1:44 left in the first quarter

Sean McVay said he needed to get Allen Robinson more involved.

The Rams new receiver had only two targets and caught one pass in a season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Robinson caught a 15-yard pass on the second play against the Falcons, and then completed a nine-play, 66-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford.

Offensive lineman Tremayne Anchrum, making his first start at right guard, suffered an ankle injury on the second play and was carted from the field.

The Rams line now includes left tackle Joe Noteboom, left guard David Edwards, center Coleman Shelton, right guard Alaric Jackson and right tackle Rob Havenstein.


Rams kicker Matt Gay brought to his knees by uniform fine from NFL

Rams kicker Matt Gay kicks during a preseason game in August.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Rams kicker Matt Gay sported yellow football pants several sizes too large at practice Friday, in part to make a statement to the NFL about the hefty amount of cash the league extracted from his pocket.

Gay, a Pro Bowl selection last season, said he was informed by letter that he had been fined $5,000 because the pants he wore in the Rams’ season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills did not cover his knees.

His fashion statement for practice came after he posted a statement and photos of his baggy trousers to social media.

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From his corner, Rams’ Jalen Ramsey knows his performance against Bills was subpar

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey walks off the field during a loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 8.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The visit was unexpected but welcome.

This week, in the aftermath of the Rams’ embarrassing season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills, Rams star cornerback Jalen Ramsey said defensive coordinator Raheem Morris dropped by his house to check in. Ramsey and Morris sat outside for about 20 minutes chatting.

“Just gathering thoughts, just making sure everything was cool,” Ramsey said Friday. “Making sure my mind was right because he knows how hard I am on myself.”

Ramsey, a three-time All-Pro and one of the NFL’s highest-paid cornerbacks, is his own harshest critic. So he said he is not bothered by barbs from others.

Many came his way, especially on social media, after the loss to the Bills, who challenged Ramsey from the outset. Receiver Stefon Diggs made several plays, catching eight passes for 122 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown.

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Inside (lineman) story: Why Aaron Donald’s pursuit of 100 Rams sacks is historical

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is sacked by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is sacked by Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald during the first half of a game on Sept. 8.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Aaron Donald is synonymous with the number he wears on his jersey: 99.

That is also the number of sacks the Rams’ star defensive tackle has amassed since he entered the NFL in 2014.

On Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, Donald could join the 100 club.

“Anytime you accomplish something, it’s a great honor,” Donald said Thursday. “But obviously, I’m just out there playing. Not thinking about it, just playing the game trying to do what I can to help my team to win.”

Donald, 31, entered the season with 98 sacks. He had one in the Rams’ embarrassing season-opening defeat to the Buffalo Bills at SoFi Stadium.

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These four NFL teams can’t afford to go ‘uh-oh-and-2’

Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson passes against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 12.
(John Froschauer / Associated Press)

Every NFL team likes to play at home, but those familiar confines will look especially good to a handful of clubs who opened on the road and started the season as flat as a lonely stretch of highway.

San Francisco did a belly flop in rainy Chicago, 19-10.

Denver, with Russell Wilson making his debut at Seattle, crumbled in the red zone and lost to the Seahawks 17-16.

Green Bay was humbled by Minnesota 23-7.

Las Vegas instantly dropped back in the AFC West with a 24-19 loss at the Chargers.

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How Bobby Wagner honors Kobe Bryant, reacts to Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle

Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner stands on the sideline during a preseason game against the Houston Texans in August.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Bobby Wagner grew up inspired by the play and determination of Kobe Bryant.

So, in his debut with the Rams, the veteran linebacker honored Bryant by wearing a thigh pad that featured a photo of the late Lakers star.

“He’s one of the first players I watched from start to finish,” Wagner, who grew up in the Inland Empire, said Monday, “and so he was somebody that I looked up to growing up.

“And, obviously, his untimely death hit the world, and I felt like with me coming back to L.A., it was a way to honor somebody that’s done a lot in my life that he didn’t even know.”

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Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons matchups, start time and how to watch

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota runs out of the pock during a loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 11.
(Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Rams (0-1) and the Atlanta Falcons (0-1) match up heading into their game at 1:05 p.m. PDT on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. The game will be shown on Fox.

When Rams have the ball: The Rams’ offense needs a reboot after stumbling throughout a season-opening 31-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked seven times and had three passes intercepted. Now he’ll be operating behind a reconfigured offensive line that features Coleman Shelton at center and Tremayne Anchrum making his first start at right guard. Left tackle Joe Noteboom was limited in practice because of a knee sprain. If he does not play or is slowed, Alaric Jackson will step in. One of coach Sean McVay’s main goals is to get wide receiver Allen Robinson involved early in the game. Against the Bills, Robinson was targeted only twice, and he had one catch. His two targets were the fewest of his nine-year career in a game in which he didn’t incur a season-ending injury. The Rams also must establish a rushing attack, especially against a Falcons defense that gave up 151 yards rushing in a 27-26 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Darrell Henderson gained 47 yards against the Bills. McVay told reporters this week that running back Cam Akers must play with more urgency. The third-year pro played just 12 snaps against the Bills and gained zero yards in three carries. Defensive end Grady Jarrett leads a Falcons front that had four sacks against the Saints. Safety Richie Grant had 10 tackles for a defense that also includes cornerback AJ Terrell.

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‘I just got to do a better job.’ Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford eyes better play vs. Falcons

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford warms up before playing the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 8.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Matthew Stafford enjoyed a career season in 2021, leading the Rams to a Super Bowl victory in their home stadium.

But reducing turnovers — he had a league-high 17 passes intercepted — was among the veteran quarterback’s goals going into his second year under coach Sean McVay.

That did not happen in the Rams’ season-opening defeat to the Buffalo Bills. Stafford had three passes intercepted.

“Definitely two or three I wish I had back,” he said this week, “there’s no question about that.”

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Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons: Betting odds, lines, picks and predictions

The Rams were part of history in Week 1, but not the kind they wanted. The Rams joined forces with the Bengals to be the first Super Bowl teams to both sit 0-1 since 1999. It was an ugly “Thursday Night Football” affair with a 31-10 loss to the Bills that featured three Matthew Stafford interceptions.

Stafford and the Rams are in a good bounce back spot in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons. Here’s a closer look at the matchup and where the smart money is on the game:

Atlanta Falcons at Rams (-10.5, 46.5)

By the time this game kicks off, it will have been a long week-and-a-half for the Rams. They looked uncompetitive against the Bills, who are the Super Bowl favorite but also turned the ball over four times. The Rams did nothing with the gifts that they were given and failed to protect Stafford. He was sacked seven times and the Bills recorded 16 quarterback hits.