Los Angeles Rams fans were feeling pretty good going into the postseason. Playing with essentially house money, the expectations were so low going into the season that the whatever happened on Sunday, the LA Rams weren’t even supposed to be there.
However, the loss still stings. Things could have shaken out a lot differently if key mistakes didn’t happen. Let’s take a look at the expected and unexpected aspects to the game:
Expected: WR Robert Woods played like a #1 wideout
All of the big offensive names for the Rams (RB Todd Gurley, QB Jared Goff, and WR Cooper Kupp) showed up on Sunday, putting up repectable numbers and placed the Rams in position to win the game. However, Robert Woods kept up his impressive bid as the top wideout on the Rams offensive roster with 142 yards on 9 receptions. Many in the sports media laughed at the free agent signing of Robert Woods, balking at the five-year 39 million dollar contract for a guy who was a possession receiver at best. Well, Coach McVay and the Rams’ front office obviously saw something different in Woods and he proved them correct once again against the Falcons. In the 4th quarter, Woods saved the Rams on 3rd and 15 with an amazing grab that energized the crowd, placing hope that a comeback was still possible. That being stated, that unnecessary roughness call on Woods was a brutal setback.
Unexpected: Special Teams errors kept the offense off the field
Those two turnovers by WR Pharoh Cooper in the first half were devastating. Cooper’s misread on a punt return gave the Falcons prime field position, leading to an easy field goal. In the second quarter, Cooper fumbled a kickoff that lead to a Falcons touchdown. Beyond just the points that came from these mistakes, which decided the game in some respects, the Rams’ defense were on the field for too much time in the first half that they were gassed by the end of the game. Even though the Rams ended up with more total yards, their time of possession was 22:25 to Atlanta’s 37:35. To me, this aspect defined the trajectory of the game.
Expected: Jared Goff was hot and cold in a high pressure setting
As I sat in the end zone, there were many Rams’ drives where we were behind the offense, watching pass plays evolve in front of us. It was exciting to see QB Jared Goff go through his progressions, especially when he found an open Cooper Kupp or Sammy Watkins. But when the Rams needed a break of good fortune, Goff lobbed an ball into the turf that made you drop your head in bewilderment. However, what I loved about Goff’s performance was that he kept slinging it. His throw to TE Tyler Higbee, while it did get overturned, was still a remarkable throw that proved that Goff wasn’t going to shrink in the moment. I’ll say it again: Jared Goff is going to be a great franchise QB for the Rams and this is just the beginning.
Unexpected: the Rams’ defense didn’t force any turnovers
Although it’s not fair, the Rams needed the defense to bail them out during this game with a clutch turnover that would give the Rams’ defense some prime field position. This didn't happen, of course, and the Rams only ended up with 13 points. QB Matt Ryan threw the ball 30 times, but most of the time he was pretty surgical, opting for conservative throws over the middle. The fact that Larmarcus Joyner, Trumaine Johnson, and John Johnson did not get any interceptions reminded me how sink or swim the defense has been this year. It’s dangerous to rely on points from the defense and special teams, but the Rams were collecting points like seashells this season, making it look easy. On Sunday, however, the Rams’ defense appeared tired and undermanned. Yet, the Rams’ D still showed flashes of greatness (Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn were on the field after all). Looking at it a different way, the defense held the Falcons below the Rams scoring average, which would have advanced the Rams to the next round if there were able to pull that off. But alas, it was not in the cards.
Expected: the B-list stars shined during the game
It’s not shocking to see famous people at Los Angeles sporting events, so when Rob Lowe, Rebel Wilson, and Danny Trejo pumped up the crowd, it was just another day in La La Land. But this was different than a Lakers game. No Leo, Denzel, or Jack. To most people in America, most of the celebrities were on that “who is that again?” list. I did enjoy Tone Loc doing “Wild Thing” during commercial break, even when he changed the line to “Ram Thing.” Ok, so part of me loved it, the other part felt embarrassed for him. The sound for Snoop Dogg was pretty terrible, but it was great to see him with his Rams gear. I’ve always been a big fan of Snoop, so it’s nice to see him as an ambassador for the team.
Unexpected: I did not drink as much beer as I thought during the game
Maybe because I feel like a sucker for drinking a 14 dollar can of Bud Light, but I came out of the game a lot more sober than I wanted to be. And I didn’t want to miss any of the action waiting in the crazy-long beer lines (for Bud Light of all things!!!) Shout out to the 20 dollar bucket of cookies from Cathy’s Cookies -- they do God’s work.
The most unexpected aspect to me is that the Rams lost the game. I really thought they were going to put it together in the second half, but the Falcon’s defense wasn't having it. This is a povotal time for the Los Angeles Rams — are they going to become the Cincinnati Bengals, constantly get into the playoffs, only to lose in the first game? Or are they destined for something more exciting? I, for one, am expecting great things next year from the LA Rams.