The St. Louis Rams, coming off a comeback win against Arizona last week, went into the Georgia Dome, where 13 years ago, they won the Super Bowl in the very same venue, looking to knock off Matt Ryan and the dangerous Falcons’ offensive attack. While they came up short, the Rams did not make it easy.
Down 24-3 in the 3rd Quarter, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and the Rams offense, which had struggled during the entire first half, aside from a couple strong passes to Chris Givens, finally kicked into gear and launched a comeback. Bradford threw a touchdown pass to rookie Tavon Austin (his first NFL touchdown) in the 3rd to cut the lead to 24-10. It was up to the Rams defense, who, despite heavy pressure from Robert Quinn and Chris Long the whole first half, struggled badly in the secondary. Julio Jones ran right past Janoris Jenkins all afternoon, garnering 182 receiving yards and a touchdown, the touchdown going 81 yards.
When the Rams needed the defense to step up the most, they couldn’t deliver. Despite another touchdown thrown from Bradford, this time to Austin Pettis, the defense could not stop Atlanta. This time, it was the running game that stunned St. Louis.
In the first quarter, former Rams running back Steven Jackson caught a short pass from Ryan and scored his first Falcons’ touchdown, but he injured his quad on the play and was out the rest of the day. In comes Jason Snelling, who hadn’t scored in nearly two years, ran through three Rams’ defenders into the end-zone increasing the lead to 31-17.
Even after that, the Rams were not done. After a strong drive downfield, Bradford once again found Austin in the end-zone to make it a one touchdown game. And once again, it was up the defense, just to stop Atlanta once, so they could get the ball back and try to tie the game. That plan never came to fruition, as Atlanta got a key first down and ran down the clock to win 31-24.
It was a tough loss for the Rams, who fall to 1-1 on the season and are tied for last with Arizona. Despite the loss, there were many positives that came out of the game: the Rams showed toughness fighting in the second half cutting the 21 point lead to a mere touchdown, and how Bradford has established himself as one of the best no-huddle QB’s in the league. When the Rams ran the no-huddle, the Falcons defense was in complete shock as to what was going on.
But there were also negatives, obviously. While also dropping a pass that was returned for a touchdown, Daryl Richardson struggled on the ground, mustering only 10 carries for a mere 35 yards. And the secondary once again allowed a top-tier receiver (Jones) to get open on many plays, making it harder for the offense to bounce back. The Rams boast one of the top defensive lives in all of football, anchored by Long, Quinn, and last year’s first rounder, Michael Brockers.
Despite their talent, they cannot bail out Jenkins or Cortland Finnegan when they blow a coverage. Next week, they will have to deal with three very talented receivers: Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten, and while Romo is not on the same level accuracy wise as Ryan is, he still can make plays when given the right time and can find the open man. The Rams have struggled the first two weeks of the year covering a top-tier receiver (Fitzgerald in week 1, and Jones in week 2) and they will have to step up big time for the Rams, considering they play in the toughest division in the NFL, there is little breathing room.
Barely beating Arizona worried fans, almost beating Atlanta convinced fans there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the Rams, but if they want to contend in the division, the time is now to start a winning streak, because it won’t get easier as the season goes on.
Bradford went 32/55 for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns along with the one interception, while Ryan went 33/43 for 374 yards and 2 touchdowns.
St. Louis heads to the home that Jerry built next week as they take on the Dallas Cowboys (1-1), who are coming off a disappointing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo credit/Atlanta Journal-Constitution).