5 takeaways from Falcons’ loss to Rams

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Falcons did not want to pat themselves on the back after throwing a major scare into the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.

“We’ve seen progress, and we’re certainly not celebrating moral victories,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said after the 31-27 loss Sunday.

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For the second week in a row, quarterback Marcus Mariota couldn’t make a play at crunch time to pull out the victory. He had a key fumble and late bobbled snap to help derail things against the Saints.

He had the ball on the 37-yard line against the Rams with plenty of time to get into the end zone. But his high pass to Bryan Edwards was intercepted by Rams All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. He was sacked on his Hail Mary attempt.

Here are five takeaways from the loss to the Rams:

1. Where did the rushing attack go? The Falcons were banging the drum after running the ball 38 times for 201 yards against the Saints.

The Falcons jumped in the Saints’ faces and pushed them around Mercedes-Benz Stadium for three quarters.

The question after that showing was if that type of production was sustainable or if would turn out to be a season outlier.

Against the Rams, the Falcons rushed 27 times for 90 yards for 3.3 yards per carry.

Cordarrelle Patterson, who rushed 22 times for a career-high 120 yards and a touchdown against the Saints, was held to 41 yards on 10 carries against the Rams.

Rookie Tyler Allgeier, in his NFL debut, rushed 10 times for 30 yards. Rookie Caleb Huntley had a carry for 3 yards, and Mariota was kept in check on six carries for 16 yards.

“I think they did a good job of changing some looks,” Mariota said when asked how the running game was slowed down. “I (have) to do a better job of getting us in better plays. But that being said, they get paid to play defense, too, and they did a good job.”

With the number of errant passes in each of the first two games, the Falcons will need to lean on their rushing attack.

“At the end of the day, we hang our hat on what we do up front,” Mariota said. “I continue to believe in those guys and in what we’re doing.”

2. Bootleg blues: Early in the contest, the Rams, in general, and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, specifically, were not buying the Falcons’ fakes.

Several times, Floyd was waiting for Mariota on his bootlegs.

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3. Youth served: Falcons rookie linebacker Troy Andersen, who was taken in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft, played 11 defensive snaps (14%) at linebacker.

Andersen, who played solely on special teams in the season opener, was in for Rashaan Evans, who played 54 of 63 defensive snaps (86%).

Andersen had a tackle, a special teams tackle and a blocked punt.

Also, cornerback Darren Hall played 25 defensive snaps (40%) as Casey Hayward dealt with a shoulder injury.

Allgeier and Huntley, wide receiver Jared Bernhardt and outside linebacker DeAngelo Malone made their NFL debuts.

Part of the Falcons’ mission this season is to grow and develop the roster. Spot playing some of the younger players appears to be part of the plan.

“Some of these guys need to play,” Smith said. “We need to use everybody because it’s a long season. And when you’re able to play more guys, then you can create more packages and put 48 guys up. You want everybody to have a job.”

4. All three phases: After the game, Smith stopped to chat quickly about Andersen and laud him for his athleticism on that blocked punt.

Andersen blasted through the Rams’ line and nearly took the ball off the punter’s foot.

Lorenzo Carter, a starter playing on special teams, scooped up the ball and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.

It was thought to be the first in franchise history during the regular season, but Jerry Glanville’s Falcons had one in a 45-35 loss to the 49ers on Oct. 14, 1990.

On fourth-and-11 on Atlanta’s 35, George Thomas blocked the punt and Bobby Butler returned it 62 yards for a touchdown, according to Pro Football Reference.

“We needed the block,” Hayward said. “The block was huge. We (gave) our offense a chance to go down and score. When you can score on special teams, that’s always a plus.”

The Falcons blocked a punt and returned it 1 yard for a touchdown by Artie Ulmer in the “Miracle at Lambeau” playoff win against Green Bay on Jan. 4, 2003.

5. So, when does Desmond Ridder get a shot? It was only the exhibition season, but in a similar situation, the Falcons got the ball back on a fumble, and rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder tossed a touchdown pass to Bernhardt to defeat the Lions.

Ridder, the third-round pick from Cincinnati, hasn’t played a snap from scrimmage.

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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