Wild Card Weekend Preview: Falcons at Rams
Falcons at Rams
The Atlanta Falcons rolled through the playoffs en route to the Super Bowl a year ago behind a high-powered offense that led the league in scoring. For the Falcons to take the first step toward a return trip to the title game, they will have to slow the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense when they visit the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.
Sixth-seeded Atlanta blew a 25-point lead over New England in a stunning collapse before falling in overtime in Super Bowl LI and has not looked like the same team this season despite registering 10 wins. “We’ve been tested,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn told reporters. “We’re battle-ready. … This week will be another battle. This is now also when we get to test what we’ve done over the last 20 weeks to see how we can work together, and we’re really excited to do it.” The Rams won four games last season but earned their first trip to the playoffs behind second-year quarterback Jared Goff and star running back Todd Gurley, who are among the leading MVP candidates. “We certainly don’t shy away from what a great opportunity it is to be able to play on Saturday night, prime time,” Los Angeles first-year coach Sean McVay told reporters. “I think it’s something that our guys will be excited about, going against the defending NFC champs.”
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (10-6): Atlanta won six of its last eight, with the only two losses coming against division winners Minnesota and New Orleans, but Matt Ryan had only five touchdown passes versus four interceptions in the final six games. He still has one of the league’s most dangerous targets in Julio Jones, who caught 88 passes and eclipsed 1,400 yards (1,444) for the fourth straight season. The Falcons also feature the backfield tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, who rushed for a combined 1,493 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 63 receptions and four scores. Atlanta surrendered 19.7 points per game and allowed only one 100-yard rusher.
ABOUT THE RAMS (11-5): Goff hardly looked ready for the bright lights after the 2016 No. 1 overall pick threw for five touchdowns and seven interceptions in seven games as a rookie, but he tossed 28 scoring passes against only seven picks this season. Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards and led the league in touchdowns (19) and yards from scrimmage (2,093) while rushing for more than 100 yards six times. Gurley also topped the team with 64 receptions while rookie Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods recorded five TDs apiece while making 62 and 56 catches, respectively. The Rams ranked 28th against the run despite the presence of stud tackle Aaron Donald (11 sacks).
1. The Rams are the second team in history to lead the league in scoring after ranking last the previous season.
2. Ryan has thrown 12 touchdown passes and one interception in his last four playoff games.
3. Gurley was held to 61 yards in Atlanta’s 42-14 victory in December 2016.