NFC Playoff Catchup: Wildcard Weekend

Atlanta Falcons 26
L.A. Rams 13

Saturday, January 6 th , 8:15pm EST.

So, if you don’t understand why the best coaches constantly harp on consistency in all three phases of the game (Offense, Defense, Special Teams), Saturday’s matchup between the Falcons and Rams is the perfect illustration. Miscues by the Rams punt and kick returning units cost them two possessions in the first half and gifted ten points to the Falcons. Here’s the Rams first half possession chart.

3-and- out-punt

3-and- out-punt

Muffed punt resulting in Atlanta field goal

Punt

Fumbled kick return resulting in Atlanta touchdown

Punt

Touchdown

Field Goal

Take away the two miscues on special teams and you can easily see the Rams heading into halftime with a seven-to- ten-point lead, instead of trailing a sixth-seed Falcons team that didn’t have much reason for confidence. Now, that certainly doesn’t guarantee a win for the Rams, but spotting the defending NFC champions a thirteen-point lead early isn’t exactly a recipe for success, even with the league’s top offense. Man for man, the Rams out-performed the Falcons’ personnel, but they couldn’t get back over the top after trailing. Goff threw for more yardage than Matt Ryan, Robert Woods went for more yards than Julio Jones and Todd Gurley rushed for more yards than DeVonta Freeman.

After halftime, the experience of this more seasoned Falcons team shined though, as they possessed the ball for more than 13 minutes in the third quarter as they salted away the clock and more importantly, kept Jared Goff and the Rams offense on the sideline. Any hopes of a comeback turned to desperation in the fourth as time dwindled.

The Rams have plenty to build on looking forward, they’re a young team with plenty to look forward to. They can only imagine what could have been this year, though. I’m guessing Sean McVay will spend a bit more time with the special teams units next season. Atlanta moves on to play the top-seeded Eagles, who, while weakened by the loss of Carson Wentz, and no longer the home-favorite in the next round, are still the league’s best rushing defense and a balanced offense. It won’t be an easy road to the NFC Championship.

Image source: twitter.com/AtlantaFalcons

Tom Capo

 

Tom Capo writes about sports, parenting, food, wine and travel; but seldom all at once. He’s currently working on his first novel and collection of shorter fiction. He lives in the Bay Area with all of his girls; wife Allison, daughter Liliana and dog Artemis.

 

 

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