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Los Angeles Rams vs. Atlanta Falcons film preview: Taking advantage of a weaker Atlanta offense

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The Atlanta offense is not the same as it was last year. If the Rams can stop them on third-down, the rest of the chips will fall.

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan
Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Getting a win in the Wild Card Playoff round is going to come down to whether or not the Los Angeles Rams can take advantage of a subpar Atlanta Falcons offense—especially on third-down.

Keep in mind, this is still a good offense. They can convert on third-down (lead-leading 45 percent). The problems with Atlanta are their inconsistent offense and their inability to put points on the board.

Last season, the Falcons were the No. 1 scoring offense in the league. This year, they are middle-of-the-pack and in the last month, they only averaged 19.8 points-per-game.

QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones can make plays on the Rams if given the opportunity. But the game is going to come down to how often the defense can get Atlanta’s offense off the field.

Stopping the Falcons on third-down

Converting third-downs is the best attribute of the Atlanta offense.

The Vikings were able to stop the Falcons on both fronts, especially on third-down. When the Falcons traveled to Minnesota, they left with a 10 percent conversion rate on third down.

Keep in mind, during a three-game winning streak prior to playing the Vikings, the Falcons were converting 65 percent of their third-downs.

How did the Vikings do it?

They put in the work prior to third-down. The Vikings either prevented little-to-no gains on first and second down, and sometimes they were able to take away yards from the Falcons. Half of the Falcons third-down situations against the Vikings were more than five yards, most of them being more than eight yards.

Kill on third-down, and the Rams won’t have to worry about killing in red-zone situations.

Quick note about red-zone

The Falcons are not as good when it comes to scoring touchdowns in the red-zone. After 17 games, the Falcons are 23rd in the league in touchdown efficiency from inside the 20 yard-line (50 percent), which isn’t all that bad.

But in the last three games—when they were playing playoff-football—that number dropped to 33 percent. When Atlanta is on the road, the number also drops to 44.8 percent.

Julio’s ripple effect

Jones is one of the Top 3 best receivers in the league, if not Top 2. He is second in the league in receiving yards (1444) and 8th yards-per-catch (16.4). As we all know, the dude can ball.

Julio’s presence on the field is more impactful than being a weapon on his own. He creates space for other receivers by drawing more attention towards him. Defenses have been known to put an extra man on Jones, allowing other receivers—and TE Austin Hooper—to get open and make a play.

Atlanta offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has used this to his advantage.

While Sanu takes his route to the left, Jones crosses under him on the slant route, which draws two defenders with him. With the safety taken out of the play, Sanu gets space after separating himself from the corner, and results in a touchdown.

Using Jones against Ryan

Ryan has a lot of trust in Jones to get the ball no matter his current situation, even in tight coverage. More often than not, this works out for the Falcons.

Jones (at the very top of the screen) runs between two defenders and catches the ball in such a tight space. Interesting thing to note, Ryan threw the ball before Jones crossed between the two Carolina Panther players. This was a third-down play that resulted in a 21-yard gain.

But defenses have been able to use this to their advantage. By applying pressure to Jones immediately off the line—and by keeping the pressure up down the route—defenders have been able to snag an interception off of Ryan.

The New Orleans Saints corner puts hands on Jones immediately off the line and practically mugs him. But Ryan throws the ball to that side of the field anyway, allowing the corner to catch the ball outright. He was already in front of Jones before the ball was thrown.

Here, Jones is passed off to the safety, who stays in front of him in the back corner. Thanks to the pressure, Ryan is makes a bad throw under pressure and the ball is turned over.