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Los Angles Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons: What the Rams need to do to win

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Playoffs?!?!

During Rams vs. Bears game.  (Photo by G Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Don’t turn the ball over.

Avoid stupid penalties.

Play your Game

These are more than cliches. They’re how teams win playoff game and exactly what the Los Angeles Rams must do to beat the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday.

There will always be the once-in-a-lifetime Tuck Rule or Music City Miracle, but in the fifty-two years on the road to the Super Bowl, these things are rare.

What’s not rare? In order to be the best every year, you have to play the best.

The regular season is about getting into the playoffs and seeding. For an incredible and remarkable season to continue after last year’s 4-12, back to L.A. debacle, winning means moving on to the divisional round. Lose and its one and done for the Rams.

The Rams are the 3rd seed in the NFC having won the NFC West and will host the 2016 NFC Champions and 2017 6th-seed Atlanta Falcons on Saturday in a primetime event this Saturday.

The Rams have a mixed history in the playoffs in Los Angeles. It’s been 30 years since the Rams have won the division. Back in the 1960s and 70s, the NFC West looked very different with the New Orleans Saints, Falcons, San Francisco 49ers and for a short time Baltimore Colts. After the Colts left due to realignment, only two teams ever really had a viable chance for the playoffs—the Rams or Niners.

Back in those days when the Rams headed east no matter how good they were, the cold set in either Minnesota or Green Bay freezing the Rams out since they weren’t any domed stadiums, heated sideline benches, blowers or hot packs protecting the team from the winter conditions. Those games were brutal to watch. That’s one of the reasons the Los Angeles-located Rams have never beaten either Minnesota or Green Bay in the playoffs.

But in 1979, the Los Angeles Rams won a divisional playoff game on the road beating the Dallas Cowboys in the hole in the roof Texas Stadium on one of those miracle plays: a tipped ball to WR Billy Waddy. The Rams then kicked their way into the Super Bowl XIV by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They lost the Super Bowl XIV at the Rose Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they put up a great fight as the underdog. Los Angeles Rams fans remember that playoff run for the gutsy performance of Hall of Fame DE Jack Youngblood, playing the entire playoffs and Super Bowl with a broken leg.

As Los Angeles Rams know, “Good can only get so far.”

What is called upon now is to be great.

There’s something different about this Los Angeles Rams team then those of the past. First and foremost, teams coached by George Allen, Chuck Knox and John Robinson were predictable—good, but objectively not quite good enough. One can blame those heartbreaking playoff losses in the cold weather to the suffered at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and Cowboys. But simply put, those Los Angeles Rams didn’t play well enough to win.

This year, the vibe I feel is entirely the different. This team can go all the way.

Here are some of things that the critics throw out there as to why the 2017 Los Angeles Rams maybe the scariest and the best team in the playoffs, but won’t have enough to win it all, which are foolish.

Too much youth and too much inexperience

Hogwash.

This is the most common reason critics suggest the Rams will not go all the way. However, you don’t gain experience until you actually make the playoffs! Dynasties from the Steelers, Niners, Cowboys and New England Patriots really didn’t have that much experience going into the playoff when started their runs.

That’s why this doesn’t hold up.

What makes a young team so scary is the lack of experience. A young team doesn’t let their bad experiences of the past affect them—they have none. Young teams just keep playing hard to the end. These Ram players who suffered though years of mediocrity are hungry. They aren’t going to waste this once in a lifetime opportunity. Immaculate Receptions happen because as long it close and there’s time on the clock, fight till the end you got a chance to win.

When your team is the higher seed and favored to win, the best way to win is to play your game. Don’t get fancy. Do what you normally do and your team will be fine.

The Rams face a daunting task against the Falcons’ defense this weekend, but as long as they play their game they should win because they have a formidable defense more then capable of holding Atlanta to under 30 points.

So how do you play your game?

The most glaring obstacle the Los Angeles Rams face in the playoffs is staring them right in the mirror.

When the Rams turn the ball over, they lose. When the Rams get stupid penalties, they lose.

In the playoffs, you can’t squander opportunities. You’re not facing a run of the mill team. Teams that make the playoffs are in the hunt for the Super Bowl for a reason. They don’t make mistakes, and they capitalize on their opponents screw ups. Atlanta was in the Super Bowl a year ago for a reason.

Fans in attendance on Saturday won’t be there just to see a game. We’re going to be active participants expecting our team to win. We don’t want a memorable season ruined because of a final memory being a loss that could have been prevented. It’s one thing to lose when your opponent is better then your team. It would be quite another to play a lousy game due to turnovers and penalties.

The Rams are 11-5. They know why they lost (the first time) to Seattle and to Philadelphia at home—they played poorly by shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties. They lost in Minnesota in a game that could have gone either way had they not made mistakes. At the time the Rams played Washington in Week 2, Washington was a good football team as the Rams had a chance to beat them at the end but came up short. Since then, injuries to Washington’s offensive line killed their playoffs hopes. It wouldn’t be the same game, nor the same outcome, if they played today. Forget about the 49ers game this Sunday. That was clearly the worst performance of the year, but it was predictable given that the Rams rested so many of their starters.

So going into the playoffs when the Rams play their game as they have for 11 of them, they win. There’s no magical strategy or formula. Victory lies in what the 2017 Rams have done well throughout the season on offense, defense and special teams.

Do that, and the Rams can’t lose.

That means running the ball with RB Todd Gurley. Making the critical pass by QB Jared Goff. Making the catch on third down and moving the chains. The Rams’ defense with DT Aaron Donald must shut down the opponents running game and put pressure on the quarterback. A turnover by the defense can change the entire momentum of the game, turning the tide. The Rams’ special teams must perform to the level they are capable of. The Rams need big returns on the kickoffs and punts from Pro Bowl returner Pharoh Cooper. P Johnny Hekker needs to put that ball inside our opponents 10-yard line pinning our opponents down deep in their territory. No touchbacks. And, yes, when called upon, new K Sam Ficken has to make his field goals and extra points. It’s not asking too much.

This is not difficult to do. This is what the Rams have been doing all season. Its our formula for victory, and there isn’t a team in the playoffs that can stop these Rams.

Except for the Rams.

Think in the present

The Rams need to come out the box with intensity by mustering every ounce of energy they have on every play. This team wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs, let alone win the division. The team was disrespected by pundits from the start. The best they could come up with was 9-7 or 10-6 and if a lot things fell in place maybe a wildcard team. Use this lack of respect as your individual motivation. This team knows that’s not who these Rams are.

When it all started back in September what many though was an improbable season is now the probable. The Rams can do this. It starts Saturday night at the Coliseum. For the diehards, this game is the reason we kept praying for the day of their return. We know this is a mighty good football team. Now go out there and play the game like we know this Los Angeles Rams team is capable of doing.

I implore Angelenos to be there in mass rooting on this squad and make Los Angeles a place to fear with our own intensity the moment the Falcons take the field. There’s nothing like 70,000 plus Rams fans in the Coliseum screaming and yelling for our team. We’ve done it before, now let’s do it again.

GO RAMS!