NFL (National Football League)

Los Angeles Rams’ season ends with 26-13 loss to play-off-tested Atlanta Falcons in NFC wild-card game

The Rams fail to overcome an early 13-0 deficit and lose in their first play-off game at the Coliseum since 1979

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 January, 2018, 1:33pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 January, 2018, 1:33pm

Experience counts.

The Los Angeles Rams, making their first play-off appearance since 2004, found out the hard way on Saturday at the Coliseum.

The Atlanta Falcons, a year removed from their Super Bowl meltdown, muted the Rams’ high-scoring offence and took advantage of special teams miscues en route to a 26-13 victory in an NFC wild-card play-off game before a crowd of 74,300.

The third-seeded Rams finished 11-6 in their turnaround season under first-year coach Sean McVay.

Matt Ryan passed for a touchdown, Devonta Freeman ran for one and Matt Bryant kicked four field goals as the sixth-seeded Falcons (11-6) advanced to play the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles.

The Rams could not overcome an early 13-0 deficit and lost in their first play-off game at the Coliseum since 1979.

On a night when Ryan and receiver Julio Jones showed their play-off experience, Rams quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley struggled to find their rhythm for most of the game.

The Rams also gave up 10 points when they muffed a punt and Pharoh Cooper fumbled on a kick-off return.

McVay held out starters in the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers so they could rest and heal to be ready for the play-off game.

The defence came out strong, but the offence lacked the first-quarter spark it had demonstrated throughout most of the season.

The league’s highest scoring unit looked nothing like the part for most of the first half and special-team units committed two miscues that enabled the Falcons to take a 13-0 lead.

But the Rams rallied late in the second quarter on a touchdown pass from Goff to Cooper Kupp before a field goal pulled the Rams to within 13-10 at half-time.

The Falcons took more than eight minutes and drove to the Rams’ 7-yard line on the opening possession of the second half, but the Rams’ defence stepped up and ended the threat, forcing the Falcons to settle for Bryant’s third field goal.

The Rams appeared to get a lift when Goff connected with receiver Robert Woods for a 25-yard gain, but they could not get another first down.

Ryan took advantage, completing two passes to Jones as the Falcons moved down the field. The Rams defence once again stopped the Falcons, but Bryant’s 54-yard field goal increased the lead to 19-10.

Gurley got going in the fourth quarter, breaking off runs of 14 and 33 yards that set up Sam Ficken’s 32-yard field goal to pull the Rams to within 19-13.

But Ryan showed his mettle on the decisive series.

He completed a short pass to Mohamed Sanu, and then watched him sprint 52 yards to the Rams’ 10. Two plays later, with Rams linebacker Connor Barwin bearing down on him, Ryan slipped but still lofted a touchdown pass to Jones for a 27-13 lead with 5:48 left.

Goff led a drive to the Falcons’ five-yard line, but his fourth-down pass to Sammy Watkins in the end zone was broken up, ending the hope for a comeback.

Goff completed 24 of 44 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown. Gurley rushed for 101 yards in 14 carries and caught four passes for 10 yards.

Ryan completed 21 of 30 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. Jones caught nine passes for 94 yards and a touchdown.