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Rams defense faces tough test against the run with Falcons on deck

Can L.A. rebound against one of the top rushing attacks of Week 1?

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

If there is one thing that Falcons head coach Arthur Smith has gotten right in Atlanta, it is the run game. Same as with the offense that he had in Tennessee as the Titans offensive coordinator, helping Derrick Henry become the most prolific runner of his era, Smith has developed something special in the run game with the Falcons by turning Cordarrelle Patterson into one of the better first round picks of 2013.

The former wide receiver and All-Pro kick returner has found his real niche in football as the Falcons running back. Patterson rushed for 120 yards in Week 1’s last second loss to the New Orleans Saints, building on the 618 rushing yards that he posted in 2021. Patterson also caught 52 passes for 548 yards last season but that was not the offense’s area of focus on Sunday, as the Falcons rushed for over 200 yards against the Saints.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota, still a step behind average starting quarterbacks as a passer, had 12 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown.

Last season, the Falcons ranked 31st in rushing yards and 30th in yards per carry, but by building the focus around Patterson and Mariota, that seems to be an immediate area of improvement for Smith’s offense. The Falcons led 16-7 at halftime and 26-10 in the fourth quarter, but Atlanta’s pass defense crumbled against Jameis Winston and Michael Thomas, allowing 17 points in the final 11:12 of regulation.

Now it will be up to Raheem Morris to have his defense prepared to play better than they did in Week 1’s 31-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

The Rams had an adequate run defense in 2021 but they will need to tackle better than they have been through the preseason and first game of the season. Really Josh Allen beat up L.A. with his arm, but he also had 56 rushing yards while starter Devin Singletary added 6.0 yards per carry on eight attempts. Buffalo currently ranks first in third down conversion rate through one game.

No team wants to be 0-2 but it would be especially devastating to drop a game against the Atlanta Falcons this early in the year, so the need for a good performance is heightened after seeing what has transpired in the first week of the season. The Falcons went step-for-step against a very good Saints roster and they ran wild against a defense that was expected to be among the best in the league.

There are many things that the Rams need to do right in Week 2. Stopping Patterson and Mariota on the ground will be one of those to-dos.