It isn't the easiest thing in the world to be a rookie in the NFL, and even second year players fall victim to inexperienced moves in the form of penalties. The Rams continually put themselves in a deep hole against the Atlanta Falcons, and try as they might, couldn't dig their way out. Trailing at halftime by 21 points, the Rams battled back in the second half. But an underlying theme of penalties and poor field positioned doomed them throughout the afternoon. Both teams had the same number of penalties - 7 - and for the same yardage - 53. But the trouble with the Rams' penalties, is that four of them came on special teams. It caused Sam Bradford to start out deep in his own territory more often than not.
Tavon Austin scored twice, but his performance was offset by dropped passes in key situations. Last week's phenom - Jared Cook - was targeted six times, catching one pass for 10 yards. Hats off to Atlanta's defensive game plan, and to a secondary playing most of the game without Asante Samuel. For the second week in a row in a Rams' game, an opposing defensive lineman snagged a tipped pass and rumbled in for a touchdown. Osi Umenyiori rambled for 68 yards on his first interception of his 10 year career.
The rushing game for the Rams was "meh" at best. Daryl Richardson averaged 3.5 yards per carry on 10 touches for 35 yards. The Atlanta defensive line played a great game in the first half, and looked winded in the second. But they held it together, keeping pressure on Sam Bradford for most of the contest. Oh, and the second leading rusher for the Rams today? That would be Bradford, with 25 yards on three carries. Chris Givens was the bright spot for the Rams, as he hauled in five receptions for 105 yards. Flashes of brilliance were few and far between for the Rams, though I loved how they fought their way back at times.
The player of the game for Atlanta was wide receiver Julio Jones. Shocking, right? (Where's the sarcasm Font when I need it?) Jones had his career best regular season day, with 11 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown. His size and speed absolutely stymied the Rams' secondary.
While Rams fans hoped against hope their team could storm into Atlanta and win, I think we were getting ahead of ourselves. This team is no where near capable of overwhelming a top notch NFL team. It's coming, but it surely wasn't going to be today. Atlanta scored 31 points WITHOUT the services of a healthy Roddy White. Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called a decent game, but by the time he took the training wheels off the offense, his team was down 21 points IN Atlanta. I get it. It's a "walk before you run" kind of thing with his cherubic charges. Over the next two weeks, the Rams face a tough road foe in Dallas, and one of the very best teams in the NFL at the Edward Jones Dome, in the San Francisco 49ers.
Bright spots are there, and the Rams run defense gets my proverbial gold star. They flat out shut down Atlanta's running game, even before Steven Jackson left due to injury. The Falcons had a grand total of 36 yards on the ground. For some reason they didn't read my article, where I warned them not to run at Michael Brockers? Their bad, I guess? Alec Ogletree had a good game, leading all Rams' defender with 8 solo tackles.
If Atlanta takes anything away from playing the Rams, it how physical the game is played in the NFC West. Injuries hit both teams, with what looked like a severe leg injury to Matt Daniels, and the newest rendition of Rodger Saffold getting dinged. Atlanta lost four player to injury, including Steven Jackson who left after scoring the first of the game.
Grumble all you want Rams' fans. But don't grouse so much you let the experience of seeing this team grow pass you by. For the fourth week in a row, Sam Bradford wasn't sacked. The game announcers made a great deal of Atlanta's Matt Ryan hitting 9 different receivers, but Bradford hit 10! The ball is moving around the field, and young hands are trying to snag it out of the air on the biggest sports stage in the world. Coaches are going to call easier plays now, than they will in a couple weeks. The flame is going to ignite Rams fans, and while patience is a virtue that makes us grind our teeth at times, you just have to accept good things come to those who are willing to wait... Now, if you'll excuse me - my secret "man-tears" place is waiting for me...