Stafford, Rams hold off Falcons for 31-27 win

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Jalen Ramsey was calm and collected, even in a whirlwind fourth quarter that saw…

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Jalen Ramsey was calm and collected, even in a whirlwind fourth quarter, as the Atlanta Falcons put together a late rally against the Los Angeles Rams.

While most of the 71,802 in SoFi Stadium feared the worst Sunday, the All-Pro quarterback knew he would be the deciding factor in the final minutes.

With the Falcons looking for a potential touchdown, Ramsey intercepted a Marcus Mariota pass intended for Brian Edwards in the end zone, allowing the Rams to hold on for a 31-27 win.

“I told my teammates it would come back to me, and it did,” Ramsey said. “I just kept focusing and doing my job. It was in the back of my mind because we’ve made plays like that in the past. And if you do, it’s not going to end well for you.”

The defending Super Bowl champions led the entire game. But they nearly blew a 28-3 third-quarter lead that would have given the Young Falcons an unlikely comeback from the infamous number — Atlanta’s 2017 Super Bowl lead before New England rallied to win — to celebrate .

In the second half, Mariota threw touchdown passes to Drake London and Olamide Zacchaeus to put the Falcons up 31-17. The special teams and defense then chipped in to give the veteran quarterback one last chance.

Troy Anderson blocked a punt that Lorenzo Carter returned 26 yards for a touchdown, and a 2-point pass from Mariota to London put the Falcons up 31-25 with 5:06 left. According to the team, this is the first blocked punt returned for a TD in Falcons history.

Los Angeles turned it around on their next drive when Darren Hall forced a fumble by Kupp and returned it to the Rams 37. Mariota drove the Falcons to the Rams 24 before making the fateful interception.

“It’s on me, I’ve got to do a better job of getting it to everybody,” said Mariota, who was 17 of 26 for 196 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. “I think I could have done a better job throughout the game and just communicating with the guys to get everyone on the same page.”

Los Angeles hedged when running back Brandon Powell ran out of the end zone on a three-and-out punt. After a penalty, Atlanta took over at the Falcons 40, but Mariota was sacked before he could attempt a Hail Mary on the final play to give Atlanta its fourth straight 0-2 start.

“A lot of different, very unusual things, but they happened. And we still found a way,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “We’re not going to run away from some of the things we didn’t do today. But we will also allow ourselves to appreciate what we managed to win.”

Matthew Stafford threw for 272 yards and three touchdowns and Cooper Kupp had two TD catches for the Rams, who rebounded from a disappointing season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Stafford completed his first 12 passes en route to going 27 of 36. Kupp had 11 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown on back-to-back drives in the second and third quarters.

Late in the first half, Kupp took the ball over his shoulder on a second-and-3 Atlanta layup that gave the Rams a 21-3 lead. The Super Bowl MVP’s first score came three plays after Rams rookie cornerback Kobe Durant intercepted a pass by Cordarrelle Patterson and returned it 51 yards down the right sideline to the Falcons 9.

The Rams then opened the second half and extended their lead with another touchdown when Kupp caught a rushing pass and set up Jaylin Hawkins for a 10-yard TD.

The Falcons were able to move the ball in the first half, but were fouled. The Rams scored 21 points after a Younghou Ku missed field goal, a turnover on downs near midfield and Mariota’s first interception.

“Obviously it wasn’t perfect and we’ve got to work through it, but one thing about our guys, no matter what happens, we have a chance to win until the last play,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “Obviously we didn’t play enough, but the game gave us enough and the guys kept working.”

MORE GIVEN

Allen Robinson had four catches for 53 yards after being held to one reception in the opener. Robinson caught a 1-yard pass from Stafford on the Rams’ first drive. Tyler Higbee also had a big game with seven catches for 71 yards.

Kupp’s first reception was only in the second quarter.

“Those guys were some starters early in the game and they did a great job, and then Cooper got his opportunities and made great plays like he always does,” Stafford said.

LONDON is calling

London, the No. 8 overall pick out of Southern California College, had eight catches for 86 yards, including his first touchdown in the third quarter, a 4-yard catch from Mariota to bring Atlanta within 28-10.

INJURIES

Falcons: CB AJ Terrell was evaluated for a head injury in the first half and cleared to return.

Rams: RG Tremaine Ankrum injured his ankle in the series opener and did not return. … CB Troy Hill (questionable) was also injured in the first half.

FURTHER

Falcons: Travel to face the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday.

Rams: Travel to face the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or distributed.

Source link