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The Falcons showed how they can get back to the Super Bowl in wild card win over t
It’s been an inconsistent season for the Falcons. But the team that showed up to beat the Rams 26-13 in Wild Card play looked like a team that can get back to a Super Bowl this year.

The Rams didn’t make it easy on them. Aaron Donald harassed Matt Ryan all night long. He finished with just half of a sack and one hit, his presence was felt. His pressure disrupted Ryan’s timing and forced him into less-than-ideal throws., but even on the plays where he didn’t take Ryan down

The Falcons had to settle for field goals on four of six scoring drives. But things shifted for Atlanta in the third quarter, when they finally got a consistent ground game going. That, coupled with the defense’s success in limiting Jared Goff’s chances to hit Todd Gurley with quick, short passes let the Falcons hold on for a win.

Gurley was productive on the ground, and the Falcons took Gurley essentially out of the passing game. He’s averaged 52.5 receiving yards per game this season with six touchdowns through the air. He had only four catches for 10 yards on Saturday night., with 101 yards. But Goff relies on the ability to hit Gurley with short passes to keep the offense moving

The Falcons defense is much improved this season. They finished 2017 ranked in the top 10 in both scoring and yards allowed. The speed Dan Quinn has installed on defense showed up big on Saturday.

This was most evident on the Rams’ possession right before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. The Rams had a first-and-goal from the Falcons’ 8-yard line. After a 3-yard completion on first down and an incomplete pass on second, but he was blanketed and didn’t actually catch it. The touchdown was overturned on review., Goff hit Tyler Higbee in the end zone

Los Angeles was trailing 26-13 and had one more chance to pull within a touchdown of the Falcons. Deion Jones got away with a hold when he knocked down Goff’s pass that was intended for Sammy Watkins on fourth down. But that pretty much locked it up for the Falcons.

sound tackling made all the difference.,The speed on defense and sure

Aaron Donald came after Matt Ryan relentlessly,Womens Shaquill Griffin Jersey, as he does. And the best way to slow down that pressure is to establish a ground game. The Falcons were able to get some traction on the ground, especially in the third and fourth quarters. They dominated time of possession, holding onto the ball for nearly two-thirds of the matchup.

Devonta Freeman finished with 66 yards and one touchdown, and Julio Jones even had a nifty 13-yard end around.,Authentic Delano Hill Jersey, despite slipping and sliding on the horrible turf conditions in the Coliseum. Tevin Coleman had 40 yards

Atlanta couldn’t have done this without its offensive line. Freeman even had some help on his second-quarter touchdown. Center Alex Mack physically tackled Freeman into the end zone to take a 13-0 lead.

This Falcons team has been up-and-down all year. But now they’ll go to Philadelphia to take on an Eagles team that hasn’t looked quite the same with Nick Foles behind center instead of Carson Wentz.

A month ago, the Eagles were 10-2 as they headed into their Week 14 matchup with the Rams. The Falcons were 7-5, were hosting the NFC South-leading Saints, and any hope of the playoffs hinged on a strong regular-season finish. And that's exactly what happened; Atlanta beat New Orleans and won two of their last three games to land the sixth and final wild-card spot.

The Eagles, have seen their fortunes turn. Yes,Womens Nazair Jones Jersey, they beat the Rams that afternoon but franchise quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a torn ACL and his season is over. His replacement, Nick Foles, hasn't even been replacement level, meanwhile, which is an understandable cause for concern for Eagles fans,Womens Arthur Brown Jersey, coaches and Foles' teammates.

this is exactly what the Eagles want: the top seed with home-field advantage facing the sixth seed that did the heavy lifting against an explosive Rams team,On paper, and in the process insuring that Philly wouldn't have to face the fourth-seeded Saints. The reality, however, is much more complicated. Because Nick Foles isn't Carson Wentz and coach Doug Pederson is now tasked with finding a way to win -- without his best player while facing one of the postseason's hottest teams.

In Week 7, the Falcons were 3-2 and coming off back-to-back home losses to the Bills and Dolphins. And while Matt Ryan and Julio Jones remained the centerpiece of the offense, it otherwise looked nothing like the outfit that ranked No. 1 in the league a season ago on their way to the Super Bowl. Gone was the run-pass balance and along with it, who had the unenviable job of trying to replace Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons' offensive identity. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, was ID'd as the culprit.

they abandoned that first-half game plan -- which relied heavily on the running game -- and when it was over,Whomever was to blame the criticism was fair; the loss to Miami looked a lot like last Saturday's game against the Rams: The Falcons dominated the first half. Inexplicably, they had found a way to lose to Jay Cutler and the Dolphins. There were no such mistakes in Los Angeles. The Falcons ran early, they ran often, and they didn't stop running till the final whistle.

Of Atlanta's 72 total offensive snaps, 39 were runs. They controlled the ball for 37:35, including 13:07 in the third quarter, 76-yard drive that ended in a Matt Bryant field goal to give the Falcons a 16-10 lead. Of those 16 plays, which started with the Falcons getting the ball and going on a 16-play, 12 were runs. And when you see DeVonta Freeman doing things like this:

"It was tough sledding," Ryan said, via, "but we felt like that was our best plan for success, and the guys bought into that. We all had that belief, for sure, and we were very clear about our plan coming into this game, and it shook out the way we wanted it to."

This is a far cry from what we saw in that Dolphins home loss but credit to Falcons coach Dan Quinn not panicking. Of course, he's been here before; a year ago, the Falcons started 4-1 before back-to-back losses had everyone outside the building doubting a team that looked great on paper. A few months ago, the Falcons were 4-4 before righting the ship.

"We'll reset it and get right to it because in our league you've got to go back and get ready to play again, but you don't really get tested until you're in the fire."," Quinn said in October. "You've got to get the corrections first. All of the ones are teaching moments

The Falcons passed their first test against the Rams in part because they didn't get away from one of their strengths.

not exactly. Playoff expediency did.,Playoff experience didn’t beat the Rams Saturday

The Atlanta Falcons made no turnovers. They identified the Rams’ rush defense as a sore they could irritate, and they did. They punted when they should have, and they kicked field goals, when they needed to. They needed to remove Todd Gurley from the passing game and they did that, from 54 and 51 yards, too.

They checked all the boxes they could find and they won, 26-13, breaking the Rams’ express after one long,Authentic Shaquill Griffin Jersey, glorious lap.

Jared Goff was repeatedly asked to mouth the we-had-a-good-season speech. It should give hope to Rams fans that he would not.,Afterward

“It (stinks) to have to quit playing,” Goff said. “We’ve got some really good dudes in there. The more big games you can play,Womens Delano Hill Jersey, the better off you are. As far as playoff experience goes,Womens Arthur Brown Jersey, they would have beaten us then, I don’t even know what that means. You just play the game and they played it better than we did. If this had happened two weeks ago like this, too.”

Often the quarterback has to bear the cross when a season dissipates. Goff left that honor to Pharoh Cooper, and the Falcons took those chances to score 10 points.,Authentic Nazair Jones Jersey, the Pro Bowl returner who muffed a punt and fumbled a kickoff

“The first one was a fluke,Authentic Arthur Brown Jersey,” Goff said. “Those special teams guys have won games for us all year.”, the second one I know he wishes he had back

Goff was actually fine, and that the Rams ran only 10 plays in the first quarter and six in the third. They only had the ball for 22:25. That wasn’t enough bandwidth for all the musicians in the band., considering he was belabored by the pass rush on the first two series

“We had to wait to settle into the game,Authentic Arthur Brown Jersey, “but we’ve done that before.”,” Goff said

to set up what might have been a touchdown try if Rob Havenstein hadn’t been caught holding. Sean McVay chose the field goal there and a 13-10 deficit.,Goff actually made enough big plays. At the end of the first half he drilled Robert Woods with a beautiful 39-yarder down the middle

Even after the Falcons went ahead by 13, Goff whisked the Rams downfield in a hurry,Authentic Tyler Lockett Jersey, without blowing a timeout. He went 11 for 13 on that drive until he threw what appeared to be a 5-yard score to Tyler Higbee. At that point there was 2:16 left and the Rams didn’t need to kick onside, with all three time outs in hand.

Catch Or Not A Catch,But then Higbee fell victim to that popular game show, and the Rams had to pick up a fourth-and-5. Deion Jones, one of a horde of quick and brazen Atlanta defenders, broke up the try to Sammy Watkins.

“That’s what I feel good about,” Aaron Donald said. “We got down, and we made some mistakes we shouldn’t have made, but our guys came out and fought.”

Goff had three completions for 20 or more yards. He just didn’t make enough little plays that could sprout into big ones, couldn’t find Gurley on those screens and flares that have overloaded defenses all year. Although Gurley got 101 rushing yards, he caught four balls for just 10 yards. Even on a short week and with travel, the Falcons found the instruction manual and followed it rigidly.

“Really we just didn’t have enough plays, and they were in a jam structure early on and forced an incompletion. It really goes back to the rhythm. We weren’t able to get enough plays off.”,” McVay said. “We only tried one of those screens

The Falcons filled the box with as many as nine defenders and overpopulated the middle and the flat. Then their cornerbacks won more man-to-man battles with the L.A. receivers than they lost.

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian also dodged the pitchforks for another week by calling 39 runs, a tactic that worked better after Michael Brockers, the left defensive end, left with a knee problem.

” McVay said. “They did a good job of getting runs off consistently.”,“Michael has been so stout for us

The observant Falcons noted that the Rams were 30th in a 32-team league in yards given up per rush (4.7).

“We thought we might be able to crease them,” Ryan said, “but the best thing is that we stayed with it even though we didn’t do much with it in the first half. We thought our offensive line could lean on them. It was tough sledding for sure, but it was our best plan for success.”

Ryan flipped a screen to Mohamed Sanu,The Falcons needed only one home run and they got it with 7:22 left in the third quarter. Working against a corner blitz, who set up his blockers and burst for 52 yards. Two plays later, Ryan slipped on the annoyingly slick turf but still was able to lob an 8-yard score to Julio Jones, for the 13-point lead.

You could probably say the lack of experience didn’t necessarily hurt the Rams, but the wealth of it helped Atlanta. Last year the Falcons won the NFC and then, as you might have heard, let a 25-point lead evaporate in the Super Bowl. Some of them were around in 2012 when the Falcons came within a play of beating San Francisco for the NFC title. This was Ryan’s ninth playoff start. The amplified Coliseum noise was just a low buzz to them.

” Ryan said. “The challenge is to stay locked in and keep your mindset on execution.”,“You have to keep yourself in a mental space where you’re not worried about the finality of the game

with more prime-time games. They probably won’t have a healthy offensive line for 16 games. The new-team smell that pervaded Thousand Oaks all season won’t return.,The Rams may be great or disappointing in 2018 but they won’t be the same. Their schedule will be tougher and certainly more disjointed

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