Falcons’ defense dominates Rams in wild-card win

The defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons were solid on both sides of the ball Saturday handing the resurgent Los Angeles Rams a 26-13 loss in the first playoff game at the Coliseum in nearly 40 years.

The Falcons held the ball for nearly 38 minutes, scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run by Davonta Freeman and four Matt Bryant field goals to take a 19-10 lead into the fourth quarter.

Rams’ running back Todd Gurley ignited the Rams’ offense with two runs totalling 47 yards on back-to-back plays, but the Rams had to settle for a field goal putting them within 6 points after the Falcons’ defense stiffened. Atlanta’s offense answered when Matt Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu for an 8-yard touchdown pass. That increased the margin to 13 points.

But the Rams, who lead the NFL in scoring during the season, marched downfield looking for a needed touchdown. With a little more than two minutes remaining, Jared Goff found tight end Tyler Higbee near the back of the end zone. But a replay showed it was an incomplete pass. Then on fourth-down, Goff’s desperation pass attempt was also unsuccessful, turning the ball back to the Falcons.

Atlanta once again saw strong special teams play. Matt Bryant hit four field goals, two beyond 50 yards. Ryan passed for 218 yards as the Falcons never trailed in the game. Atlanta now travels to Philadelphia to face the top-seeded Eagles on Jan. 13.

The loss was a disappointing end to the season for a resurgent Rams’ team. A season-best crowd of 74,300 left disappointed but saw their team finish the year with an 11-5 record after suffering through a 4-12 record in 2016. First-year head coach Sean McVay pumped new life into the offense as the Rams lead the league in scoring.