With their backs against the wall, the Falcons figured to come out with their best effort against the Rams on Sunday.
But the Falcons were no match for the Rams, who pulled away in the third quarter.
The Falcons, in full free-fall mode, saw their record fall to 1-6.
On to the grades:
Run offense: The Falcons rushed 15 times for 38 yards for a porous average of 2.5 yards per carry. The offensive line couldn’t open any holes in the run game, which led to problems in pass protection. Devonta Freeman had seven carries for 19 yards before he was ejected. Freeman expressed remorse for getting tossed. Brian Hill played well in reserve. Ito Smith suffered a concussion while blocking in pass protection. At 195 pounds, he needs to learn how to cut block linebackers like the great Warrick Dunn. Grade: F
Pass offense: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was under siege. He was sacked five times and hit eight times. He completed 16 of 27 passes for 159 yards before leaving with a right high ankle sprain. He finished with a 60.6 passer rating, his lowest rating of the season. Rookie right tackle Kaleb McGary struggled in pass protection, but was a stand-up guy after the game and discussed his performance with the media. Given several opportunities, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter didn’t throw his offensive line under the bus. “We didn’t play well in any areas of the game on offense,” Koetter said. “It was our worst game of the year. I don’t think it’s right to put it on any one group.” Matt Schaub came in and completed 6 of 6 passes for 65 yards and tossed a touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper. Grade: F
Run defense: Middle linebacker Deion Jones did a good job of shooting the A-gap to stop plays in the run game. The Falcons held the Rams to 90 yards rushing on 36 carries and didn’t allow an explosive run. The longest run was of 10 yards by Todd Gurley, who finished with 41 yards on 18 carries. Safety Kemal Ishmael, who finished with seven tackles, was also strong in the run game. This was one of the positives to take out of this game. Grade: B-plus
Pass defense: The Falcons played the deep pass better as cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson and safety Jamaal Carter moved into time-share situations in the secondary against the Rams. Wreh-Wilson shared time with Isaiah Oliver at right cornerback and Carter shared time with Kemal Ishmael at strong safety. Wreh-Wilson played 34 of the 76 defensive snaps (45%). Oliver played 45 snaps (59%). Carter played 38 snaps (50%) and Ishmael played 38. Wreh-Wilson finished second on the team in tackles, with eight. Oliver had four tackles. Ishmael had seven tackles and Carter had two tackles and one pass breakup. The Falcons held the speedy Brandin Cooks to 59 yards on four catches. Cornerback Kendall Sheffield had another strong outing for Desmond Trufant, who’s out with a turf-toe injury. Grade: C
Special teams: The units struggled against the Rams, too. Special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica discussed Rams punter Johnny Hekker’s passing ability with the media. He certainly brought it up in the special teams’ meetings. But the Rams hit the Falcons for a 23-yard pass play to Nick Scott in the second quarter to keep a drive alive. That wasn’t the only special-teams blunder as Falcons kicker Matt Bryant missed a 50-yard field, an onside kick went out of bounds and the Rams recovered a fumbled punt in the end zone for a touchdown. Kasey Redfern had a shaky net average of 33.8 yards on five punts. Grade: F
Coaching: The Falcons did a good job of slowing the Rams’ rushing attack, but the offense was smacked in the mouth. If they have any hope, the Falcons have to protect Ryan. Fans are upset. “I totally get their frustration, and we are too,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “This team loves the city. The city loves the team. Nobody feels worse than we do because we want it so badly for them. We want to be able to deliver. They have such an impact on the game, especially at home. So, we want to make sure that they're lit up and get stuff to get all fired up about because it can make such an impact on the game, and we've seen that. We're going to work like crazy to get it right. It's that important to us. We recognize they're hurting, and we are too. At the same time, we've got to get it right. That's what I want to spend all of our time doing to make sure that we can deliver for them.” Grade: C.
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