The Los Angeles Rams narrowly avoided ending up on the low side of an all-time balancing of the NFL’s karmic scales, but other than that, there’s not much to take from Sunday’s 31-27 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Early in the third quarter, the Rams took a 28-3 lead on the Falcons, and oh, did the jokes start flying on social media. If nothing else, the Falcons – who famously blew a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI – knew that it’s possible to come back from that deficit, right?
Well, as it turns out, Atlanta came within one play of doing exactly that, thanks in large part to a series of Rams blunders that didn’t just let the Falcons back into the game, but laid out a red carpet and escorted them back in.
After posting that 28-3 lead, the Rams proceeded to unravel in the following fashion:
Matthew Stafford threw an interception (his third of the day), a turnover that led to a Falcons touchdown
Riley Dixon’s punt was blocked, and Atlanta’s Lorenzo Carter returned it 28 yards for another touchdown to bring Atlanta within a single possession
Barely 90 game seconds later, with 3:32 left, Cooper Kupp fumbled on his own 44, his first lost fumble since September 2020
Atlanta fought down to the Rams’ 24-yard line, but Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota threw an interception right into the hands of a leaping Jalen Ramsey at the goal line with 1:18 remaining. Even that didn’t kill Atlanta’s chances, as Falcons head coach Arthur Smith had enough timeouts to force Los Angeles to get tricky on fourth down. One intentional safety later, Atlanta had a Hail Mary opportunity from midfield, but Mariota couldn’t escape a collapsing pocket, and the game ended without a throw.
The key here for the Rams is survive and advance; there are no style points in the NFL. No team has started 0-2 and made the playoffs, even the expanded playoffs, since 2018. And Week 2 is historically when the hysterical takes start to well up. Still, it’s worth noting that Stafford already has five interceptions on the season. And fourth-quarter collapses involving Atlanta are supposed to be the Falcons collapsing, not the other way around.
It would be easy enough to write this off as a case of the Rams playing down to the level of their competition were it not for Week 1’s debacle, a 31-10 blowout at the hands of the Buffalo Bills. The Rams – who are, and will remain for the rest of the year, defending Super Bowl champions – ought to be at the level of the league’s elite. They’ll get the chance to prove they are with forthcoming divisional games against the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers in the next two weeks.
As for the Falcons? They’re 0-2, and they weren’t looking like they were going to make the playoffs anyway. At least they had a chance to ever-so-slightly get out from under that 28-3 cloud that’s loomed over their franchise for half a decade. It’s a start.
Contact Jay Busbee at email@example.com or on Twitter at @jaybusbee.