National Football League

Ten Takeaways from Sunday’s 31-24 Loss in Atlanta

1. Losing in Atlanta, where the Falcons earned the top seed to host the NFC Championship game last year, is not a disgrace. Sure, as fans, we’d like to see the Rams steal a win in a hostile environment. But Matt Ryan was 33-5 at the Georgia Dome coming into the game. It’s a loss, but it’s certainly not a tragic, unexpected loss.

2. One former Ram and one current Ram in this game have become dependable for an unwanted reason. Steven Jackson, for the sixth consecutive year, suffered an early-season injury that kept him out for at least part of a game. Usually, his injuries are thigh/quad injuries. This one is a thigh injury that held SJ39 to zero yards rushing. Meanwhile, whether it’s bad luck or being injury-prone, Rodger Saffold went down again, this time with a knee injury. Joe Barksdale played well in his stead. Saffold’s injury issues are clearly costing him as he approaches free agency, and giving Barksdale a chance to steal a job.

3. The Rams are going to have to run the ball better. Daryl Richardson and Zac Stacy combined for 67 yards in the opener. Richardson and Isaiah Pead had only 36 in this game. Granted, the Rams fell behind 21-0, but before Osi Umenyiora’s interception return that gave the Falcons a three-touchdown lead, the Rams ran the ball seven times for just 20 yards. That’s not good enough to earn respect from defenses.

4. Out of 12 possessions, the Rams started two outside their own 20-yard line, their third-to-last at their 26 and their second-to-last at their 25. Otherwise they started at their own 8, 9, 20, 20, 11 and 20 in the first half. In the second half, they started at their 20, 13, 5, 26, 25 and 20. The Rams’ average starting field position was their own 16; Atlanta’s was its own 23. The Falcons had drive starts at their 34, 27, 24 and 33. It’s hard to move 84 yards, on average, to touchdowns.

5. Here are the Rams’ penalties of note:

*In the first minute of the game, Chris Long’s offside penalty negated a no-gain stop on 3rd and 12. On the ensuing 3rd and 7, the Falcons converted, and that penalty ultimately led to Atlanta’s first touchdown rather than a punt.

*After that touchdown, Tim Barnes’ holding on the kickoff causes the Rams to start from their own 8 rather than their 16.

*Mid-second quarter, an Austin Pettis illegal motion negates a Sam Bradford-to-Richardson 11-yard gain to the five, which would have given the Rams 1st and goal.  Instead, they faced 2nd and 15 at the 21 and wound up kicking a field goal.

*After the next Atlanta series, Stedman Bailey’s illegal block moved the Rams – after a punt – from their own 21 to their own 11.

*Early in the third quarter, a holding penalty on Bailey forces the Rams to start from their own 13 rather than their own 23.

*On the ensuing series, a Scott Wells holding penalty negates a Richardson nine-yard run, forcing the Rams to work from their own 18 rather than their 37.

*Later in the third, Ray-Ray Armstrong’s illegal block on a punt return forces the Rams to their own 5 from their own 10.

Every penalty hurt. It’s not just Rams penalties in their first two games, it’s the crucial timing. This team better get more disciplined.

6. It would seem that if the defense can keep the team close, Bradford performs at a high level in fourth quarters.  Against Atlanta, he was 13-21 for 114 yards and two touchdowns, for a fourth-quarter passer rating of 108.

7. Bradford hit 11 different receivers. That’s Warner-esque distribution. He needs more touchdowns.

8. Matt Ryan is good, but he’s not 33-43-for-374-yards-and-a-117-rating good. Rams corners play way too far off the line. The current NFL game is one that requires press coverage, and this defense has guys that can do it, but they aren’t asked to. They need to be more aggressive.

9. Chris Givens had a quiet 105-yard performance, the second 100-yard performance of his career. There isn’t a cornerback in the league who can handle him 1-on-1. He’ll be a terror for the rest of the league this season.

10. This is the first time Robert Quinn has had sacks in three consecutive games. His pace has gone from 48 to 32 in two weeks, but he almost had Ryan on a couple of other occasions. Quinn is going to be an elite pass rusher, and the Rams’ pair will be one of the best in the league if they stay healthy all season long.

Bottom line, there are things that need to be cleaned up that can. The Rams have enough talent to beat anyone, anywhere. But they need to cut down on penalties and get better coverage. They certainly should have proved to themselves that they can win in Dallas next week.