Defending champion Rams, disgruntled after loss, up next for Falcons

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

FLOWERY BRANCH — The defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams played in the season-opening kickoff game against the Bills on Thursday.

The defense of their title didn’t get off to a good start as they were pummeled 31-10 by the Bills.

The Falcons (0-1) will face the disgruntled-and-rested Rams (0-1) at 4:05 p.m. Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

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The Falcons dropped their opener 27-26 to the Saints on Sunday.

“They’ve obviously got a jump on us,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “They played Thursday night, so we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to roll.”

The Rams got off to a slow start against the Bills. They battled back to make it 10-10 at halftime.

The Bills’ pass rush, led by former Ram Von Miller and eight players deep, took over in the second half. The Bills sacked Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford seven times and had 15 quarterback hits.

“I know Sean (McVay) will have that team ready to go,” Smith said. “They’ll be focused in, and we’ll get the L.A. Rams’ best shot, and that’s what you want.”

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The Falcons will try to rebound from a tough loss. They had a 26-10 lead over the Saints before they collapsed in the fourth quarter.

The Rams’ passing attack features Stafford, a former star at UGA, and wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

Kupp, the league’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, had 13 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown against the Bills.

“You want to play the best and you want them to be at their best, that’s the competition,” Smith said. “We know we’ve got a challenge. ... I’m sure they will probably break out the no-huddle and play more man. They’ve got good players and good coaches.”

The Rams’ defense is led by tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Though they lost Miller in free agency, they added former Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, an eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro selection.

While preparing for the Saints, the Falcons did some informal TV scouting of the Rams.

“Yeah, you have your weekly preparation that always focused in on who are you playing for that week,” Falcons guard Chris Lindstrom said. “All of our real, true film study was all on the Saints, but so many people here are football fans in general, so just being able to watch ‘Thursday Night Football,’ the season kickoff is a lot of fun. A lot of guys watched it.”

Lindstrom believes the Falcons can bounce back against the Rams and noted that the rebound work has started.

“Communications is the biggest thing,” Lindstrom said. “The coaches have communicated to us what we need to improve on.”

The Falcons ran the ball 38 times for 201 yards against the Saints. They hope to carry their rushing attack out West.

“We all have a feeling on how we want to fit blocks,” Lindstrom said. “What went wrong with certain things and how do we not let that happen again. We’ll talk about that amongst each other throughout the whole week. Whatever challenges the Rams are going to bring, we’ll talk those through, too.”

The Rams lost center Brian Allen to a knee injury in the Bills game. He is set to miss two to four weeks and will be replaced in the starting lineup by Coleman Shelton.

Tremayne Anchrum, who played at McEachern High and Clemson, will take over Shelton’s right guard spot.

The Rams lead the series 48-28-2 in the regular season. The teams are 2-2 in the postseason.

The Rams won the last meeting 37-10 on Oct. 20, 2019, to drop the Falcons to 1-6 that season. Former Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked five times.

The Falcons’ last win in the playoffs came against the Rams in a 26-13 victory on Jan. 6, 2018, in the wild-card round.

Devonta Freeman rushed 18 times for 66 yards and a touchdown, and Julio Jones caught nine passes for 94 yards and a touchdown.

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 NFL schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18 at Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m.

Sept. 25 at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Cleveland, 1 p.m.

Oct. 9 at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

Oct. 16 vs. San Francisco, 1 p.m.

Oct. 23 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

Oct. 30 vs. Carolina, 1 p.m.

Nov. 6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

Nov. 10 at Carolina, 8:15 p.m.

Nov. 20 vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.

Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.

Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.


Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD

Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD