Rams Come Up Short Against Falcons in First Playoff Game at Coliseum Since 1994

By City News Service

Los Angeles Rams completed a historic turnaround in the 2017 regular season, not only winning the NFC West for the first time since 2003, but also going from worst to first in the NFL in scoring.

But the momentum fizzled Saturday when the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons held the Rams to a touchdown and two field goals to beat L.A. 26-13 in the first NFL playoff game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since 1994.

Atlanta took a 13-0 lead, with special team turnovers by Pharoh Cooper leading to 10 of the points.

Matt Bryant opened the scoring with a 29-yard field goal eight minutes, 47 seconds into the first quarter, four plays after a punt went off the left leg of Cooper, who had called for a fair catch, at the Rams 40-yard line.

The Atlanta Falcons doubled the pressure to win playoff game against Rams Saturday at Coliseum. (EGP Photo by Fred Zermeno)

Blake Countess and Kevin Peterson were unable to recover the ball for the Rams. LaRoy Reynolds recovered the ball for the Falcons at the Rams 17-yard line.

The 43-year-old Bryant increased Atlanta’s lead to 6-0 with a 51-yard field goal with 1:23 left in the first quarter.

Cooper, who was selected for the Pro Bowl as a returner, returned the ensuing kickoff 21 yards to the Rams 28-yard line, Damontae Kazee forced a fumbled, with Kemal Ishmael recovering for the Falcons at the Rams 32-yard line. Devonta Freeman ran three yards for a touchdown eight plays later.

Matt Ryan completed all four of his passes on the drive for 21 yards, while Freeman rushed four times for 11 yards before a crowd announced at 74,300.

Teams taking a 13-point in NFL playoff games since 2015 are 17-2, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The exceptions came in the two most recent playoff games before the Rams-Atlanta game.

The New England Patriots trailed 28-3 in the third quarter of their 34-28 overtime victory over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI Feb. 5. The Tennessee Titans overcame a 21-3 third-quarter deficit in their 22-21 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC wild card round game earlier Saturday.

The Rams cut the deficit to 13-10 on Jared Goff’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with 2:34 left in the half and Sam Ficken’s 35-yard field goal three seconds before halftime, three plays after Goff’s 38-yard pass to Robert Woods, the Rams longest play of the game.

Atlanta drove 76 yards on 16 plays on the opening possession of the third quarter, consuming 8:15, with Bryant’s 25-yard field goal increasing their lead to 16-10. Bryant kicked his fourth field goal on the Falcons next possession, a 54-yarder with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.

Ficken kicked a 32-yard field goal on the ensuing possession. The Falcons responded with an eight-play, 83-yard drive that took 5:01, culminating with Ryan’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones, two plays after Ryan’s 52-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu, the game’s longest play.

Atlanta, which was the NFC’s second wild card team and seeded sixth in the conference with a 10-6 regular-season record, will play at Philadelphia in a divisional playoff game next Saturday. The NFC East champion Eagles are the conference’s top-seeded team, thanks to its 13-3 record.

The NFC West champion Rams were the No. 3 seed in the NFC with an 11-5 record, their best since 2003 when they were based in St. Louis. The Rams led the league in scoring, averaging 29.9 points per game. They were held under 20 points three times in the regular season, losing each time.

The Rams outgained the Falcons, 361 yards to 322, but trailed 20-19 in first downs and 37:35-22:25 in time of possession. The Rams converted on five of 14 third downs, 36 percent, Atlanta five of 15, 33 percent.

The Rams were one for three on fourth downs, all in the fourth quarter. The Falcons were successful the only time they went for it on fourth down, which came on the first possession of the second half.

Goff completed 24 of 45 passes for 259 yards one touchdown. He was sacked three times. Ryan was 21 of 30 for 218 yards and one touchdown. He also was sacked three times.

Woods caught nine passes for a game-high 142 yards. Jones caught nine for 94 yards.

Todd Gurley ran for 101 yards on 14 carries, including a 33-yard run that set up Ficken’s final field goal and a 26-yard run, five plays before Goff’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Kupp in the second quarter.

The game was the first playoff game at the Coliseum since Jan. 9, 1994 when the Los Angeles Raiders defeated the Denver Broncos, 42-24, in an AFC wild card round game.

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January 8, 2018  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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