INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Down 28-3, the Falcons stormed back.

An interception at the goal line foiled the comeback as the Rams prevailed 31-27 on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

“This team is never going to quit,” Falcons linebacker Mykal Walker said. “We dug ourselves into a hole early. We fought back. We climbed and crawled back. This team is not going to quit.”

The Falcons came up woefully short early as they were shredded on defense by Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

The Falcons scored two touchdowns to get close and then rookie linebacker Troy Andersen blocked a punt that outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter returned 26 yards for a touchdown.

The Falcons weren’t finished as Darren Hall knocked the ball off Kupp with 3:22 to play.

“I knew the ball was probably going to (Kupp) or (Allen Robinson) in that situation,” Hall said. “It was a ‘we got to have it situation,’ and those are their guys. I ended up lining up on top of Kupp.

“I had some inside help, so I ended up using my help. He caught the ball, but the play is not over until the play is over. So, I got over there and punched the ball out. I was able to recover it and give the offense a chance to finish the game.”

The Falcons were in business at the Rams’ 37.

The potential game-winning drive was thwarted by cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who intercepted a pass intended for wide receiver Bryan Edwards.

The Rams took a safety to help run out the clock.

The Rams, who were routed 31-10 by the Bills in their season opener, improved to 1-1. The Falcons dropped to 0-2.

“We are sitting at 0-2, so we’re not going to feel the best, but at the end of the day we know what we are capable of,” said Walker, who finished with seven tackles. “We’ve shown flashes of what we can be. We are all excited.”

A total of 18 teams since 2020 that have started the season 0-2 have not made the playoffs. That was the first year the playoffs were expanded to 14 teams.

Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 17 of 26 passes for 196 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He finished with a passer rating of 81.6.

“He made enough plays,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “He gave us a chance. The way the ball bounced. The one at the end and the one that bounced off of (Cordarrelle) Patterson.”

Stafford completed 27 of 36 passes for 272 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He finished with a quarterback rating of 100.7.

Tight end Kyle Pitts was targeted four times (including one that drew a pass interference) and caught two passes for 19 yards. Rookie Drake London was targeted 12 times and caught eight passes for 86 yards and his first NFL touchdown.

“It’s not fantasy football,” Smith said. “We’re just trying to win. If they sit there and pack the middle ... they gave us some access over there (on the outside), and (London is) a big physical player.”

In one of those situational football deals, the Rams blew open the game but couldn’t finish off the Falcons until late.

The Rams turned an interception into a score at the end of the second quarter.

The Rams won the toss and deferred. They received the ball to start the third quarter and opened a 28-3 lead, leaving the Falcons open to Super Bowl 51 jokes.

Kupp, the NFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, scored two touchdowns, and Robinson had a touchdown reception as the Rams amassed yards after the catch.

The Rams led 21-3 at halftime, outgaining the Falcons 168 yards to 162. The Rams averaged 6.5 yards per play, while the Falcons averaged 4.8 yards.

The Rams turned their yards into scores, while the Falcons did not.

The Falcons did what they knew would be costly going against the disgruntled defending Super Bowl champions: They made mistakes and blunders.

The Falcons gained yards, but they missed a field goal and had an interception late in the first half that led to a Rams touchdown.

The Falcons opened the game with a nice drive to the Rams’ 6-yard line. They’d converted on two third downs, but on third-and-6 from the Rams’ 14, right guard Chris Lindstrom had a false start to push the ball back to the 19.

Mariota was sacked by Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner, who was unblocked, on third down to kill the drive. Kicker Younghoe Koo then missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt.

How Wagner, an eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro player was left unblocked, is a great football mystery. There was likely a major breakdown in the pass protection.

“That was on me,” Mariota said.

The Rams zipped down the field, using explosive plays to Robinson of 15 yards and tight end Tyler Higbee of 19 yards. Stafford connected with Robinson for a 1-yard touchdown to cap a nine-play, 66-yard drive.

The Falcons went back on the move, but Patterson was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-2 from the 50.

On the eighth play of the ensuing drive, running back Darrell Henderson waltzed into the end zone from 8 yards untouched.

The Falcons added a 26-yard field goal from Koo after their drive stalled on the Rams’ 8-yard line to make it 14-3.

Cornerback Casey Hayward came up with an interception with 54 seconds left before halftime. Falcons coach Arthur Smith could have played it close to the vest and got into the locker room down 11.

But Smith went for it.

After a pass interference moved the ball to the Rams’ 44, the Falcons had a chance to get a field goal. But on third down, Mariota’s high and behind pass to Patterson was bobbled. Rookie Cobie Durant made the interception and returned it 51 yards to the Falcons’ 9-yard line. Mariota and Lindstrom temporarily stopped the touchdown.

“The ball, that’s just the way it bounces,” Smith said

Three plays later, Stafford tossed a 3-yard touchdown to Kupp with 14 seconds left in the quarter.

London and Olamide Zaccheaus each caught touchdown passes in the quarter, and Walker had another interception for the Falcons.

“We knew we’d get their best shot,” Smith said. “We certainly are not celebrating moral victories.”

The Falcons are set to play at Seattle next Sunday.

Credit: Ashley Landis

Credit: Ashley Landis

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The Bow Tie Chronicles

Atlanta Falcons 2022 NFL schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27

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.

BYE WEEK

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