Julio Jones, Falcons Upset Rams to Advance in NFC Playoffs

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2018

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, left, catches a touchdown pass ahead of Los Angeles Rams strong safety John Johnson during the second half of an NFL football wild-card playoff game Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Rams led the NFL in scoring during the regular season, but you wouldn't have known it from the look of things Saturday night. 

In a game that was dominated by defense and clutch kicking, the sixth-seeded Atlanta Falcons emerged with a 26-13 NFC Wild Card win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as they put the clamps on quarterback Jared Goff in the Rams' first postseason appearance since January 2005. 

Goff completed 24 of 45 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown, while running back Todd Gurley didn't come alive until early in the fourth quarter when he ripped off gains of 14 and 33 yards on consecutive runs to set up a Sam Ficken field goal that cut the deficit to 19-13. 

Gurley, a legitimate MVP candidate who will be vying for votes alongside New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, finished with 14 carries for 101 yards.

He was also uncharacteristically silent in the passing game and managed four receptions for 10 yards with the Falcons focused on limiting his touches in open space, as ESPN's Kirk Morrison observed: 

The MMQB's Albert Breer noted another year of experience has served the Falcons defense well:  

Atlanta's offense was hardly electric itself considering kicker Matt Bryant accounted for 12 points on four made field goals from 29, 51, 25 and 54 yards out. He also added a pair of extra points.

However, quarterback Matt Ryan made plays when he needed to and hit Mohamed Sanu for a 52-yard gain that set up an eight-yard touchdown reception by Julio Jones (nine catches, 94 yards) to help put the reigning NFC champions up 13 with 5:48 remaining: 

The Rams had a chance to counter and mount a furious comeback late, but they came up empty on three consecutive plays from the 5-yard line to help the Falcons begin to get past their 28-3 collapse in Super Bowl 51: 

Now safely through to the divisional round, the Falcons will prepare for a clash with the No. 1-seeded Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial on Jan. 13  at 4:35 p.m. ET. 

The Rams, though, will be thinking of their first-round exit all offseason and aim to use it as a source of motivation with bigger and better things on the horizon for one of the NFL's premier up-and-coming clubs. 

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