The Falcons figured to be able to give the Rams a hell of a game if they played as well as they did through three quarters against the Saints, especially if Los Angeles showed up looking flat like they did against the Bills. There were some very big ifs there, and unfortunately they were ifs we shouldn’t have put out into the universe.
The Falcons squandered an early scoring drive and the Rams ran away with it from there, running up the score to the point where it was actually (and sadly) 28-3 at one point. Los Angeles is a team coming off a Super Bowl with tremendous talent and coaching, and the Falcons are a work in progress in both areas, though they’re obviously better than this. The result was an evisceration, and a reminder of what we’ve been trying to preach all summer: Atlanta is a better team than they were a year ago, but are at least a year away from being a terrific team. Against the Rams, they looked a long way away from contending.
Until they did. Atlanta wound up rallying to almost win, an incredible performance for a team that looked long dead, and a credit to their ability to hang on if not their talent. While they did fall short, the last two weeks have provided evidence that this is a team heading in the right direction.
Here’s the drive-by-drive recap.
The Falcons started with the ball, and wasted little time getting moving. Marcus Mariota hit Olamide Zaccheaus for a quick first down, Tyler Allgeier got five yards on his first NFL carry, and found Kyle Pitts over the middle for another big gain. He saved the next sequence with a huge 3rd and 8 scramble to convert on first odwn, getting the Falcons deeper into Rams territory. Mariota found Drake London on the run and the Falcons chipped away on the ground to get inside the 20, but a false start on Chris Lindstrom and a Bobby Wagner sack on third down had the Falcons settling for a field goal try. Improbably, Younghoe Koo missed.
The Rams unfortunately set about moving themselves. Matthew Stafford had a lot of luck targeting his receivers and tight ends, picking up chunk yardage to Allen Robinson and Tyler Higbee to great effect. The Rams marched down inside the Falcons 10, where a short gain by Cam Akers gave way to a near-touchdown to Tyler Higbee, and then Allen Robinson getting a release and finding a touchdown over A.J. Terrell. 7-0 Rams.
The next drive was...interesting. The Falcons saw Mariota skip a pass into the dirt to kick things off, but a bad snap that actually hit Kyle Pitts in motion and bounced off was the real lowlight of the drive. Thankfully Tyler Allgeir fell on it, but then Mariota threw a deep ball right into the hands of a Rams defender, but it was erased by a pass interference call on Jalen Ramsey. The Falcons picked up several yards on two carries to end the quarter from there.
The Falcons did not get it done. I respect the aggression in going for it on 4th down—I’m generally in favor of doing it anywhere past your own, say, 30 yard line—but while the team tried to sow confusion they went with a pretty standard Patterson carry up the gut that got nowhere. Turnover on downs.
The Rams found success with players who weren’t successful a week ago, which is why I was so worried about how Sean McVay and the coaching staff would prepare after being blown out. Cam Akers ran very effectively and Tyler Higbee continued to work as the Rams got into the red zone with minimal effort. Darrell Henderson had two nice runs to give the Rams a first down at the 8 yard line, followed by a touchdown run. 14-0 Rams.
The Falcons were in dire straits, and they needed help. After a three yard gain by Caleb Huntley, Marcus Mariota threw a nice ball to KhaDarel Hodge to pick up a first down and then some after Hodge kept running. A first down run by Cordarrelle Patterson got the team ever closer to the end zone, but they found themselves in a 4th and inches situation. Thankfully, Marcus Mariota is a strange sort of magic, and even though he slipped and fell down, he got back up and found Parker Hesse for a first down. Unfortunately, it was frittering from there, with a Drew Dalman penalty backing things up and Mariota just missing a leaping Kyle Pitts in the end zone. They settled for a Koo field goal. 14-3 Rams.
The Rams wanted to score before the half, and a series of sideline grabs by Cooper Kupp got them close enough for Matthew Stafford to take an end zone shot. Fortunately for Atlanta, they have Casey Hayward, who picked the pass to stop the drive before the Rams could cause more damage.
Marcus Mariota took a deep shot to Kyle Pitts that was overthrown, but it didn’t really matter, because a penalty on the Rams still had Atlanta past midfield. That’s why you take the shot. He missed on his next sideline pass to Drake London, missed another one to London on the next play, and and then threw one that was just a touch high to Cordarrelle Patterson. Unfortunately, Patterson couldn’t bring it in, and it bounced in the air for an agonizingly long time, giving a Rams defender a chance to pick it off. He did and brought it almost all the way back, setting up the Rams to score again before the half.
A penalty on the next play helped Los Angeles’ cause, and they wound up finding their way into the end zone with a touchdown grab to Cooper Kupp. 21-3.
The Falcons tried, but a deep shot and a would-be deep shot didn’t turn into anything.
Too easy. The Rams found Cooper Kupp, they found holes in the zone, the Falcons kept missing tackles, and over and over again we saw the defense looking like they did during the lowest points of the 2021 season. They would wind up scoring to make it 28-3, which feels like a cosmic joke but is probably just another accident of an indifferent universe.
Oh good, the Rams have the ball back. Fortunately for Atlanta, some early moves gave way to Mykal Walker getting an interception and returning it to about the Rams 20, which gave Atlanta a shot to fight back. Thank you, Mykal Walker.
That gave Atlanta a chance they took advantage of. Some hard running by Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson gave Marcus Mariota the chance to hit Drake London for a touchdown, and he did to close the gap to 28-10.
The Rams had to answer, and well, you know what comes next. Some nice passing and a Darren Hall slip in coverage helped Los Angeles get moving.
Ultimately, the Rams would stall out in the fourth quarter, with A.J. Terrell nearly managing the pick in the end zone to help make this one more respectable. Instead, the Rams settled for a field goal. 31-10 Rams.
The Falcons answered, with Marcus Mariota finding Drake London and then Olamide Zaccheaus for a score. That’s a very short version because it’s late and you’re tired. 31-17 Rams.
Abdullah Anderson tackled Cam Akers for a loss, and then the Rams got about seven on a pass. Unfortunately, the next play was an Allen Robinson grab for a first down. but the Rams did eventually stall out. Happily, that led to a blocked punt that Lorenzo Carter scooped up, which in turn led to a touchdown return. The subsequent two point try to Drake London was good, which made it just 31-25 Rams.
The Rams, smelling their own blood in the water, couldn’t put it away. Cooper Kupp ended up fumbling, and it rolled for a long while until Darren Hall scooped it up. That gave Atlanta another shot.
They couldn’t take advantage. Atlanta got close enough to make a strike, thanks largely to Drake London magic, but Marcus Mariota’s pass was just shy enough for Jalen Ramsey to pick it off and return it.
The Rams, meanwhile, couldn’t get enough going, so they elected to take a rare intentional safety to make it 31-27 Rams. The subsequent kick had a penalty, which gave Atlanta a chance at a hail mary pass for Marcus Mariota to win the game. Unfortunately, Mariota scrambled looking for a shot and couldn’t get it, and he was ultimately sacked and fumbled.