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Rams-Falcons: 5 storylines to follow

Will the Rams be the first defending Super Bowl champions in over 20 years to start 0-2?

NFL: AUG 27 Preseason - Rams at Bengals Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams are the biggest favorites of Week 2, opening with a 10.5-point advantage over the Atlanta Falcons. That may be all the motivation that the Falcons need to bring everything they’ve got to SoFi Stadium for an upset that would rock the foundations of both organizations early in the season.

Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith needs to plant his flag in something after a disappointing debut season, while Sean McVay can’t become the first defending Super Bowl champion head coach since Mike Shanahan to start 0-2.

And McVay knows a thing or two about Mike Shanahan.

Here are five storylines to follow this week and on Sunday at 1:05 PM PT.

Rams looking to avoid 0-2

Defending Super Bowl champions were 19-3 in Week 1 since 2000, prior to the L.A. Rams making that 19-4 last Thursday. How many of those three previous losses end up going from 0-1 to 0-2?

Not one. The 2012 Giants, 2013 Ravens, and 2017 Patriots all started 0-1 and rebounded to win. It should be noted that the Steelers struggled both times after winning their recent Super Bowls, starting 2-6 in 2006 and finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs in 2009.

The last defending Super Bowl champion to start 0-2 was the 1999 Denver Broncos, and they started 0-4 following the retirement of John Elway after back-to-back championships. Denver struggled immensely with Brian Griese taking over for Elway and Terrell Davis missing all but four games.

The Rams are looking to avoid being the first defending champions in the 21st century to start 0-2.

Raheem Morris vs his old team

Before he was hired to replace Brandon Staley in 2021, Morris was the defensive coordinator for one season with the Altanta Falcons. Prior to that, he was head coach Dan Quinn’s assistant head coach for five seasons, mostly working as the offensive passing game coordinator. Morris doesn’t know many of the Falcons’ current starters, but A.J. Terrell and Grady Jarrett are among those he’s familiar with on defense. Otherwise, Atlanta has had a lot of personnel turnover since firing Quinn and hiring Arthur Smith.

On a side note, the Falcons organization is also where Les Snead cut his teeth as an executive.

Marcus Mariota’s second week back as an NFL starter

L.A. has an interesting quarterback matchup to prepare for, as Mariota returns from three seasons as a backup to become Atlanta’s Week 1 starter this year. How did his Falcons debut go? Really it wasn’t that much different than the performances that led to Ryan Tannehill eventually taking hold of the starting role with the Tennessee Titans; Mariota wasn’t “benched” per se because he got injured, but when Tannehill took over, the offense became much more productive in reaching the end zone.

Mariota went 20-of-33 for 215 yards in Week 1, but no touchdowns. He did rush for 72 yards and a score, so after facing Josh Allen in Week 1, the Rams are now tested on the ground by Mariota. The Falcons’ offensive line kept Mariota clean, allowing no sacks, can Aaron Donald change that in Week 2?

Cordarrelle Patterson attempts to rush for 100 yards against Rams—again

Now everybody knows Patterson as a running back, and he had 120 rushing yards in Week 1. But did you know that Patterson’s first 100-yard rushing game came eight years ago against the St. Louis Rams?

In Week 1 of the 2014 season, many of you might remember that as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, Patterson had three carries for 102 yards and a touchdown, also catching three passes for 26 yards. Patterson had a 67-yard touchdown and added a 23-yard run, in addition to returning kicks in Minnesota’s 34-6 win.

Jalen Ramsey vs Drake London

We’ve already covered this one a little bit, but tracking whether Ramsey is covering London or not (easily Atlanta’s most talented wideout) will be a story throughout the game. If the rookie eighth overall pick makes a highlight against Ramsey, it may be a story we don’t stop hearing all week.