Falcons to meet Rams in Wild Card game on Saturday

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After their lopsided loss to the San Francisco 49ers, who were led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the Rams’ opponent in their first playoff game since 2003 was announced: the Atlanta Falcons.

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo

The poor play of the Rams offense and defense on Sunday should give the coaches pause as they prepare this week for the Falcons. The defense could not contain Garoppolo or the San Francisco running game, led by Carlos Hyde. The offense, which, like the defense, had many key players resting for Saturday, could only score one touchdown on the league’s 24th ranked defense. Granted, the Niners D has stepped up its game since Garoppolo took over the offense, but fans were expecting more from quarterback Sean Mannion, the receivers and running backs, especially at home in the L.A. Coliseum.

That said, all of the first team players will be ready for Saturday, provided there are no injuries in practice this week. The Rams are the first team in the Super Bowl era to go from last to first in scoring from one season to the next. With Jared Goff at quarterback, Todd Gurley II leading the running game and Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp leading the receiving corps, Los Angeles managed to average 29.9 points per game — let’s round it up and call it 30 — after a 2016 season when they barely managed 14 points per game.

Matt Ryan at Super Bowl LI Media Day

That will be on the minds of the Atlanta coaching staff, led by head coach Dan Quinn. They made it to Super Bowl LI last season and went into the half leading the New England Patriots 21-3. The Falcons outscored the Patriots 7-6 in the third quarter, but then witnessed another Tom Brady-led comeback that tied the game in the fourth quarter — when the New England defense stiffened and prevented the Atlanta offense, led by 2016 regular season MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, from scoring.

The Patriots won the coin toss for overtime. A pass interference call against Atlanta’s De’Vondre Campbell in the end zone put the ball on the Falcons’ 2-yard line. A pitch from Brady to running back James White ended the game with a TD. It was the first time in NFL postseason history a team leading by 17 at the start of the fourth quarter lost the game. It was not the first time Tom Brady led his team to a come-from-behind victory though.

That is what the Los Angeles Rams will be facing on Saturday: a team that feels it has something to prove after a shocking loss in the Big Game, in front of approximately 110 million viewers. The Falcons are coming off a three-game winning streak so they are pumped up as they prepare for Saturday. Rams head coach Sean McVay and his staff have their hands full. The shining phase of Atlanta’s game is their defense and they will be a big challenge for McVay’s offense. The Rams’ defense is ranked 19th in the league this season, so defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will need to put together a strong game plan and his players will need to execute a near perfect game against Ryan and the Atlanta offense.

Rams running backs Justin Davis and Malcolm Brown

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who sat out Sunday’s game, had five sacks in December and 11 on the season. If — and that’s a big ”IF” — the Falcons offensive line can contain him, Atlanta will score a lot of points. But Donald is considered by many to be the best defensive player in the game and by some to be the best player in the game.

All three phases of the Rams’ team will have to play their best games on Saturday to assure a win. John Fassel still coaches one of the best special teams units in the NFL.

Below are some of Claudia Gestro’s most recent video reports from the Rams.

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Photos by Claudia Gestro