How the Rams and Falcons match up
Rams (3-3) at Atlanta (1-5)
When Rams have the ball
The Rams and quarterback Jared Goff need to step it up after one of their least productive performances in coach Sean McVay’s two-plus seasons. The Rams generated only 157 yards and converted none of their nine third downs in a 20-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Goff completed only 13 of 24 passes for a career-low 78 yards. The fourth-year pro has passed for seven touchdowns with seven interceptions. Running back Todd Gurley sat out against the 49ers because of a left thigh bruise, but he practiced this week and is expected to play. But even with Gurley in the lineup — and McVay managing his workload — the Rams’ offense to date has not resembled the high-powered unit that mostly dominated the NFL the last two seasons. Backup running back Malcolm Brown suffered an ankle injury against the 49ers and is listed as doubtful, so rookie Darrell Henderson will continue to get increased touches after rushing for 39 yards in six carries against the 49ers. Rookie David Edwards will start at left guard in place of Joe Noteboom, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against the 49ers. The Falcons have one of the NFL’s most generous defenses. They are giving up 31 points a game, second most in the league. The Falcons have caused only four turnovers, which ranks 29th. Tackle Grady Jarrett has two sacks, end Vic Beasley 1½. Cornerback Desmond Trufant remains sidelined because of a toe injury.
The reeling Rams might take short-term inspiration from the Atlanta Falcons, their opponent Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
When Falcons have the ball
The Falcons are struggling, but it’s not because of their passing game. Veteran quarterback Matt Ryan and star receiver Julio Jones lead a unit that is averaging 317.8 yards passing per game, which ranks second in the NFL. Ryan has completed 72% of his passes, 15 for touchdowns, with seven interceptions. He has been sacked 14 times. Tight end Austin Hooper has a team-leading 42 catches, three for touchdowns. Jones, who signed a three-year, $66-million contract in September, has 34 receptions, four for touchdowns. Receiver Calvin Ridley has four touchdown catches, and running back Devonta Freeman three. Ryan will be going against a Rams secondary that has been overhauled because of injuries and trades. The Rams this week traded cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens and then acquired cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ramsey sat out the last three games because of back soreness and other issues, but he practiced twice with the Rams and is expected to play. With cornerback Aqib Talib and safety John Johnson on injured reserve, the Rams’ starting secondary could include Ramsey, cornerback Troy Hill and safeties Eric Weddle and Marqui Christian.
When they kick
Greg Zuerlein made one of two field-goal attempts at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the Rams’ 13-3 Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots in February. Zuerlein made a 53-yard attempt in the third quarter but missed a 48-yard attempt with eight seconds left. He has made 12 of 15 attempts this season. Matt Bryant has made six of eight field-goal attempts for the Falcons, but his missed extra point doomed them in last week’s 34-33 loss to Arizona.
Gary Klein’s prediction
Gurley is expected to return and Ramsey is primed to make his debut, so the Rams should end their losing streak against a team that has won only once. But it won’t be easy. And if the Rams fail to come through, it will make for a long week in Atlanta, where they will stay after the game, an even longer trip to London, and perhaps a long season.
RAMS 30, FALCONS 28
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