This was more like a Seattle Seahawks game than an Atlanta Falcons game, with two turnovers in the first quarter. On paper, the Rams looked like a much better team, but inexperience (read “CHOKING”) plays a big part in the playoffs.
The Rams needed to be good in two of three categories. If the offense played well at the beginning of the game, they might have gotten an early lead and blown the Falcons out. Or they needed a blocked punt or a huge return on special teams. Instead the offense and special teams played horrible for the first 25 minutes of the first half.
The Rams defense was dominant in the first half. In their first three possessions, Atlanta gained 16 yards on 10 plays, and came close to sacking Ryan in the end zone. Unfortunately, the first fumble gave Atlanta a gift field goal. After that, they gave up 57 yards on a field goal drive, 32 yards on a touchdown drive, and then 15 yards on 9 plays during the last two possessions. If you told me the Rams could hold Atlanta’s big play offense to 119 yards on 37 plays and 5 first downs in the first half, I would be overjoyed, thinking the Rams would be up by two touchdowns.
(By comparison, Seattle’s offense gained 172 yards in the first half of the game they won in Los Angeles, and actually earned 10 points)
The only problem is that the defense never forced a turnover and they finally wore down because of the poor performance by the offense and special teams.
The drive to open the second half was only worth a field goal but it lasted 8:15. Following another bad offensive series that stalled at the Atlanta 46, Atlanta ate up more clock on a 4:52 field goal drive that gave the Falcons a 19–10 lead and a time of possession advantage of 32:37–12:04.
The Rams offense was a disaster with a lack of creative play calls that really shocked me. I kept waiting for a jet sweep, a reverse, or some kind of run option play by Goff. How on earth does a team not make a first down with a 2nd and 2 on the Atlanta 46? How does a team with a 1st and goal at the 7 with 18 seconds left fail to get off two shots in the end zone? Down by 9 in the fourth quarter, the team against failed to score a touchdown on a long drive. Down by 13 with another 1 and goal at the 7, the Rams failed to score a touchdown because of unimaginative play calling and dropped passes (not to mention the uncalled defensive holding in the end zone).
When you spot a team 10 points on turnovers in the first quarter, and come back to have chances to regain the lead, I think it says more about your own poor play than your opponent’s good play.