Falcons travel to LA for critical matchup
The Atlanta Falcons travel to Los Angeles this week to take on the Rams. The game is a critical one for the Falcons (7-5) as they fight not only to win the NFC South, but to hold on to a playoff spot. The Rams (4-8) are looking to play spoiler and to hold out hope they can finish the 2016 campaign without a losing record.
No team in the NFL can take another team lightly, but the Rams do not seem to have much fight left in them. In a year where the team has moved, held training camp in various locations and traveled the globe, tired legs and minds seem to have caught up with everyone. Even head coach Jeff Fisher, who was awarded a two-year contract extension, lost his challenge flag in the loss to the New England Patriots.
The Rams continue to struggle on offense, ranking last in a majority of offensive categories. The Rams are last in yards gained per game at 284. The 204.8 yards a game they average through the air is 29th and the 79.2 yards the Rams average per game on the ground is 30th in the league. Running back Todd Gurley has yet to break the century mark in a game running the football in 2016. Los Angeles averages 15 points per contest which is not only last in the NFL but even behind Cleveland's 16.4 points a game.
"We had a lot of errors across the board, really, offensively, myself and everybody really. Errors are obviously going to happen; you just want to limit them. When one thing happens, you can't get down about that, you're OK (and) move on. Things don't always go your way, but you can't let (errors) keep happening. You just have to try to limit them," said quarterback Jared Goff, speaking of the New England Patriots game but truly encapsulating the entire Rams season.
Speaking of errors, Atlanta lost in Week 15 on a pair of major miscues by quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan threw two interceptions in the game. One was returned for a touchdown. The other was on a two-point conversion attempt to put the team up by three points late in the fourth quarter. Instead, safety Eric Berry of the Chiefs ran the other way with the football and secured a one-point win for Kansas City. The Falcons will need to shake off the shock and disappointment quickly as they prepare for the Rams.
"It's hard, but we're going to get right to the truth of it and put our plan together to go play at our best (against the Rams). That part of our game -- mental toughness and resiliency -- we've got a lot of tough competitors, so I expect that part to come to fruition very quickly," Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said.
The Falcons' offense can explode at any point and will be looking to take advantage of a worn out Rams defense. The Falcons rank first in the NFL in points per game at 32.2. The offense, with wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman having outstanding years, averages 412 yards a game, which is third in the NFL.
The Rams' defense, statistically speaking, has been solid this season. But the team is 11th in the NFL in defensive snaps and as the offense continues to try to find footing, the defense has been forced to bail the offense out. The Rams defense, which is prone to having lapses like they did against the New Orleans Saints, hope to keep Matt Ryan and Co. from having a performance like their NFC South counterpart.
In Week 12, the Saints racked up 555 total yards and seven touchdowns against the Rams defense. This is the same defense that currently ranks 15th in the NFL in points allowed (21.8) and ninth in passing yards allowed (231). The Falcons' offense is very comparable to the Saints so the Rams defense will be in for a stiff challenge.
If the Rams are going to do anything on offense to try and salvage the season, playing the Falcons defense could be a turning point. The Falcons defense is almost as poor as the Rams offense, in terms of statistics. Atlanta ranks 29th in the NFL in points allowed (27.6), 27th in yards per game (381.7) and last in passing yards allowed (280.8). The Rams need quarterback Jared Goff to take advantage of this porous unit to keep the game close.
Updated December 10, 2016