For Los Angeles Rams fans this has been a looooooooong time coming.
The last time the franchise hosted a playoff game in Southern California was January 4, 1986 when they beat the Cowboys 20-0 in what was, interestingly enough, the final playoff game Tom Landry ever coached. But that game was played in Anaheim.
The last time the L.A. Rams played a post-season game that was actually in L.A. was on January 7, 1979, when they lost to the Cowboys 28-0 in what was, interestingly, the final conference championship win Tom Landry ever coached.
So now, finally, the Rams are back in the playoffs IN LOS ANGELES against the Falcons in the NFC Wild Card round. But since they have also done quite a bit to market themselves in San Diego since the interlopers attempted to join them in L.A. let’s give a little love to the Rams.
What do they have to do to try and get another playoff game, which would be on the road against the Vikings? These three things.
Keep the Offense Balanced
Sean McVay’s offense led the NFL in scoring and they did it with a nice mix. The Rams threw it 518 times and ran it 454 times. In today’s pass-happy league that’s extremely balanced. The Falcons threw it 555 times and ran it 417 times; meaning Matt Ryan has a whole lot more pressure on him than Jared Goff does. If the Rams can get Todd Gurley going like they have and take pressure off the 2nd-year QB they can get that high-power attack cranking like they did most of the season.
Make Matt Miss
Matt Ryan took a step back from last year’s MVP performance. A big reason for that is the departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (who left to be the 49ers head coach) and new play caller Steve Sarkisian (yes, THAT Steve Sarkisian) has not been able to get the dirty birds going. Ryan was only picked off 12 times but when he throws them he throws them in bunches. Six of those interceptions came in just two games, which interestingly were both wins. Atlanta won’t be able to escape another multi-turnover game on the road so if the Rams can get a couple early it can snowball.
Be Special on Special Teams
Three Rams special teamers, kicker Greg Zuerlein, punter Johnny Hekker, and kick returner Pharoh Cooper, were all named to the All-Pro 1st Team this week. Just ask the inept Chargers how important special teams are in close games. The Rams can change games with this unit. The Falcons will have to keep that from happening to have a chance.
Everything we just said looks like the Rams should win. On paper, the Rams should win. Las Vegas has them as 6-point favorites. But the one thing that I keep coming back to is the importance of playoff experience. This Falcons team went to the Super Bowl last year while the Rams are in uncharted waters. Until I see how they handle it, give me the team that’s been there before.
Final score: Falcons 33, Rams 31