Coming into the game, the St. Louis Rams knew they needed to avoid a quick start by the Atlanta Falcons. That didn't happen. The Rams allowed two big plays that ultimately swung the game Atlanta's way and made a determined comeback ultimately a moot point.
Atlanta won the toss and elected to put Matt Ryan and their explosive offense on the field first. Steven Jackson carried on the first play against his former team and lost two yards. The Rams had the Falcons stopped for a three and out, but a Chris Long offsides penalty allowed Ryan to extend the drive. That would be costly as Matt Ryan converted another third and long on the way to eventually finding Jackson in the flat for the opening score.
The Rams put themselves in a hole on the ensuing kickoff as Benny Cunningham ill-advisedly took the kickoff deep out of his own end zone and was tackled at the fifteen. Compounding the mistake was a holding penalty against St. Louis and an injury to S Matt Daniels.
The Rams started from their own eight yard line and began to march backward. Daryl Richardson was dropped for a three yard loss on a swing pass. Richardson was stopped short of the first down, and the Rams went three and out after surrendering a long scoring drive.
St. Louis started deep in their own territory again after the Falcons punt was fair caught by Tavon Austin at the eight yard line. They did pick up a first down, but not much more, leaving Johnny Hekkers to kick it away again.
Matt Ryan made third down pay off again as he took advantage of a busted coverage and a double move from Julio Jones against Janoris Jenkins for an 81 yard touchdown pass. The Rams were in early trouble, down 14-0 in the first quarter.
As the field flipped for the second quarter, the Rams offense seemed to flip a switch, moving into Falcons territory via a nice gain on a crossing route to Chris Givens and the legs of Daryl Richardson. What was promising turned to disaster, however, as a Sam Bradford check down bounced off the shoulder pads of Richardson into the waiting arms of Osi Umenyiora who returned it to the end zone putting the Falcons up 21-0.
Bradford responded well, finding Chris Givens down the seem on the next drive for 47 yards and another trip into Falcons territory. The drive bogged down after an illegal formation penalty negated a gain down to the eight yard line that would have had the Rams first and goal. Greg Zuerlein got the Rams on the board though with a field goal.
Matt Bryant tacked on a field goal at the end of the half, however, keeping the Falcons halftime advantage at three touchdowns. The Rams faced a steep uphill climb to get back in the game.
The Rams' first drive didn't even net a first down, much less a score. The defense showed up, however, as Robert Quinn recorded the first sack of the day, forcing a Falcons' punt.
The defense continued to hold Matt Ryan in check, while the Rams' special teams continued to commit penalties and put the offense in deep holes.
Finally, at the end of the third quarter, the Rams got some room to work. Sam Bradford moved into the no-huddle and the Rams marched down the field, culminating in a nice tight-rope catch at the pylon for rookie WR Tavon Austin. That brought the Rams within 24-10 with a little more than a quarter remaining.
That was the spark the Rams needed. The defense forced another Falcons punt and probably should have been awarded a safety when Matt Ryan heaved a desperation toss out of bounds while inside the pocket in the end zone. The Rams offense then moved the ball swiftly down the field, fueled by a nice run after catch by Brian Quick and a 23 yard Sam Bradford scamper. On third and goal from the Falcons' four yard line, Bradford beat an all out Atlanta blitz by finding Austin Pettis wide open in the flat for the score. Suddenly, the Falcons lead was down to seven.
Matty Ice was up to the challenge, however. He and Julio Jones hooked up twice for big plays on WR screens and Jason Snelling finished off the drive, barreling in from 12 yards out to put the Falcons up 31-17 with just over six minutes to play.
The Falcons gave the Rams the underneath stuff, and the Rams took it, but used up a lot of clock in the process. Sam Bradford converted two fourth downs, one on an Atlanta pass interference penalty. He hit Tavon Austin for the second time with 2:09 left, leaving the Rams down a touchdown with two timeouts left plus the two minute warning.
Atlanta faced a third and one and Matt Ryan executed a nice play fake to hit Jason Snelling in the flat for the first down to seal a 31-24 victory.
The Rams showed pluck in coming back from a three touchdown deficit, but ultimately couldn't overcome their own early mistakes that produced that deficit. They'll continue on the road next week in Dallas to try to move to 2-1.
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