Falcons take down Rams


The Falcons played their first home game of the 2013 season on Sunday and they were looking to bounce back after a loss to the New Orleans Saints last week. It was not an easy win for the Falcons, but they came away with the 31-24 win over the St. Louis Rams at the Georgia Dome.

“I thought that was a hard-fought football game between two really good football teams,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We were able to make enough plays to get the win. We obviously have a lot of things to correct.”

This was a very personal game for Steven Jackson because he wanted to play well against his former team. He got off on the right foot as he caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan in the opening series of the contest. But right after he scored, Falcons trainers took him back to the locker room because of a thigh injury he suffered.

“Obviously there were a number of players today that did not finish the game,” Smith said who lost five starters to injuries in the first half. “We will have an injury report Wednesday.”

The offense was still effective because later in the quarter, Ryan found Julio Jones for an 81-yard touchdown pass to give the Falcons the 14-0 lead.

On the Rams ensuing drive, which went into the start of the second quarter, they drove to the Falcons 32-yard line. But Sam Bradford threw a pass intended for Daryl Richardson that was picked off by Osi Umenyiora which was returned 68 yards for the touchdown. Rams did make up for the turnover as Greg Zuerlein kicked a 29-yard field goal to cut the Falcons lead to 18.

Both teams could not get anything going in the third quarter, especially the Falcons who gained only one first down and tallied 27 yards of total offense. The Rams did score late in the third when Sam Bradford found Tavon Austin for a 6-yard score.

“We didn’t play nearly as efficient in the third quarter as we did in the first half,” Smith said. “Until I watch the tape, I don’t know if it was more mental or physical [lull].”

But that was just the beginning for Bradford and company. They opened the fourth quarter with an 8-play, 75-yard drive which ended with a Bradford 3-yard score to Austin Pettis to make it a one-score game. But the Falcons answered back with a 9-play 80 yard drive which ended with a Jason Snelling 11-yard touchdown run. Rams did cut the Falcons lead back to seven late in the quarter when Bradford threw a 10-yard score to Austin.

With 2:09 left in the game, the Falcons just needed to get a first down in order to run out the clock. They did that when Ryan threw a 22-yard pass to Snelling on a third-and-one play. Snelling had to play both fullback and tailback because of the injuries to Jackson and Bradie Ewing in the first quarter. He ended with 60 total yards and one touchdown.

“The game is ever-changing and you have to be ready on any given play,” Snelling said. “We know we have to make plays regardless who is on the field.”

But it was Jones who was the stud on offense, catching the ball 11 times for 182 yards and one score. Matt Ryan also had a strong performance, completing 33 of his 43 passes for 374 yards and two touchdowns.

“It’s always important to get that first win,” Ryan said. “At the end of the year, it doesn’t matter how or when you get those, they all count as one.”

The defense for the Falcons did give up 421 yards of offense, but because of the strong start of the unit in the first half (131 total yards) the Rams had to throw 55 times. Other than Umenyiora’s interception return for the touchdown, Robert McClain and William Moore led the team with nine and seven tackles, respectively. Umenyiora also had two passes defended and McClain had one.

“They gave us some things that we were expecting, but they were able to execute their offense, especially when they got into their no-huddle,” Umenyiora said. “We just have to do a better job of preparing and playing better.”

The Falcons will be on the road next Sunday to face the Miami Dolphins. Kickoff will be at 4:05 p.m.

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