By Cedric Williams
It was the first home playoff game for the Los Angeles Rams in LA in more than 30 years, and the entire city was excited about it. Unfortunately, the dream season of 2017 ended with a big thud on Saturday, as the Rams lost their NFC Wild Card playoff game, 26-13, to the Atlanta Falcons.
The NFC West Division champion Rams struggled from the start and fell behind the Falcons 13-0 early in the second quarter. From that point on, LA was in chase mode and never quite could catch up to Atlanta.
The Rams got as close as 13-10 behind halftime, but could only manage one measly field goal in the second half before watching their season come to an end. It wasn’t a terrible performance, but it was mostly below average, and that’s why the Rams will be home watching the rest of this year’s NFL playoffs along with the rest of us.
The final numbers didn’t look so bad. Jared Goff threw for 259 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Todd Gurley had more than 100 yards rushing and Robert Woods put up well over 100 yards receiving, as the Rams gained 361 total yards.
But those numbers don’t tell the full story, as the the Rams struggled to move the ball against Atlanta’s hard-hitting defense for most of the day. LA only had the ball for 22 minutes and 25 seconds, and gained most of its yards after it had already fallen behind by two scores.
The Rams weren’t terrible on offense. That’s why we gave them an only slightly below average grade. What the Rams were though, was just not good as they needed to be to win an NFL playoff game.
LA’s defense was its best unit of the day. Unfortunately, that group was only average as well, which just wasn’t good enough against a Falcons team that looked much more like the group that went to the Super Bowl last year than the team that didn’t make this year’s playoffs until the final day of the season.
Lamarcus Joyner had a game-high 11 tackles, Mark Barron had 10, and Aaron Donald was just about unblockable for most of the day. But still, that wasn’t enough to slow down the Falcons.
Special Teams: D-
This was the was place where the Rams struggled the most on Saturday, especially in the kick return game, where return man Pharoh Cooper—a recent Pro Bowl selection—had the worst day of his career.
Fumbles hadn’t been a problem for Cooper at all this season, but for some reason, he seemed to struggle with catching the ball almost every time it was kicked to him on Saturday, including a fumble on a kickoff return that led to Atlanta’s first touchdown of the game.
Despite the loss, it didn’t really feel like the Rams were outcoached by the Falcons. It felt more like LA’s team of young players with almost no playoff experience amongst them were just outplayed by a team full of veterans, most of whom played in the Super Bowl last year. It’s hard to blame the coaching staff for that. But just like every other aspect of the Rams’ performance against Atlanta, they just weren’t good enough to win a playoff game. Hopefully, the experience is one the LA coaching staff will learn from and have its team better prepared to play next season and beyond.