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Rams survive late meltdown vs. Falcons as Super Bowl hangover continues

By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFC West Writer

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — After his team blew a commanding lead only to hang onto a 31-27 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay read the room.

“That was a pretty dull game,” McVay quipped, coaxing some laughs before the start of his press conference at SoFi Stadium.

And later he added: “How I know I’m maturing is I would’ve been grumpy before on this thing. Holy hell. I need a couple drinks.” 

For three quarters, McVay’s Rams looked like the high-powered football team that clawed their way to a Super Bowl victory in this very stadium.

But everything changed in a confounding fourth quarter, when the Falcons actually had a chance to take the lead after recovering a Cooper Kupp fumble and driving into L.A. territory late.

However, with 1:18 left to play on third-and-13 from the Rams’ 24-yard line, L.A.’s playmaking corner Jalen Ramsey — who struggled in a humbling loss to the Buffalo Bills last week — elevated to pluck a Marcus Mariota offering down the middle of the field headed for Bryan Edwards for an interception and the win.

“He let it float up there to his receiver,” Ramsey said. “And when I get an opportunity like that, I feel like I can go up there and get it.” 

Jalen Ramsey’s acrobatic interception seals Rams’ victory

Jalen Ramsey’s interception in the fourth quarter helped the Rams pick up a 31-27 victory against the Atlanta Falcons. 

Ramsey did just that, clinching a victory that moved the Rams to 1-1 on the year. 

Los Angeles finds itself in a tie atop the NFC West with every other team, as the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) manhandled the Seattle Seahawks (1-1) at Levi’s Stadium and the Arizona Cardinals (1-1) engineered a surprising, come-from-behind overtime victory on the road against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Rams were unstoppable early, running out to a 28-3 lead behind the arm of Matthew Stafford, who showed no ill effects from a lingering elbow issue that limited his reps during training camp. 

The 34-year-old signal-caller finished 27-of-36 for 272 yards, with three touchdowns passes and two interceptions. Stafford completed passes to six different receivers. His favorite target, as usual, was Kupp, who totaled 11 receptions for 108 receiving yards and two scores on 14 targets. 

However, Allen Robinson and Cam Akers, both missing in action last week, were more involved in the offense. Robinson finished with four receptions for 53 yards and a 1-yard score on a fade route. After being put on notice by his coach this week, Akers finished with 44 rushing yards on 15 carries while Darrell Henderson Jr. added another 47 rushing yards. 

“The coach says I’m not moving with enough urgency, then I want to move with more urgency,” Akers said. “Whether that’s practice, film room — whatever it may be. I think I applied that, and I want to keep applying it.” 

With L.A. up 28-3 with a little over nine minutes left in the third quarter, turnovers and poor special teams play allowed Atlanta to sneak back into it. It started innocently enough with Mariota engineering a five-play, 20-yard scoring drive capped by a five-yard touchdown to rookie Drake London. The score was set up by a Stafford interception by linebacker Mykal Walker.

After a Matt Gay 20-yard field goal, the Falcons cut L.A.’s advantage to 31-17 on another Mariota-led drive, this one 72 yards on eight plays punctuated by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Olamide Zaccheaus with 8:21 left. 

But the head-scratching play came with 5:06 left, when Rams punter Riley Dixon had his punt blocked by linebacker Troy Anderson up the gut of L.A.’s front line. Lorenzo Carter recovered the loose ball and rumbled 26 yards for the score. Mariota found London for the two-point conversion, and the Falcons trailed by just six points with just under five minutes left to play. 

“You talk about a s—-y feeling when that one occurred right there,” McVay said. “But our guys just stayed the course. Hey, I’m being honest. You might have to bleep that out, and my mom will get mad at me, too.” 

But Ramsey’s heroics sealed the victory. 

Jalen Ramsey on the Rams’ victory over Falcons

Jalen Ramsey speaks with Laura Okmin on the Rams’ uneven win over Atlanta. “We still have a lot to correct,” he said.

The Rams looked like a Super Bowl team throughout most of the game. They forced two interceptions, one by rookie Cobie Durant and the other by Ramsey. They sacked Mariota three times, including linebacker Bobby Wagner‘s second sack of the year. 

A reconfigured offensive line allowed just one sack after giving up seven to the Bills last week.

But the Rams, double-digits favorites at home, turned the ball over three times, had a punt blocked and struggled to put away a team that won just seven games last season.

So, for Wagner, he understands there’s more work to do. 

“We’ve just got to be better, honestly,” Wagner said. “It’s still early. I’ve been around long enough that you’ve got to take the wins when you get them. A lot of these things that happened can be easily fixed. And so that’s encouraging.” 

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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