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Five Things We Learned vs. Rams

Posted Sep 15, 2013

It took a lot of players and the game was closer than they wanted, but the Falcons put away the St. Louis Rams on Sunday inside the Georgia Dome to get their first win of the season

1. Missing Run Game: When the first half ended the Falcons took inventory and saw that they'd lost their starting running back and fullback and had a 24-3 lead, despite only rushing for one yard in the first half. All things considered, it wasn't a bad place to be. They ended the game with 36 yards rushing, including a key 12 yards in three downs by Jacquizz Rodgers to close out the win in the fourth quarter. The lack of a running game was a combination of a number of things, the least of which was the injury and exit of Steven Jackson, the starting tailback. Despite having a lead for the entire game, the running game never got going and the Falcons had to win the game through the air with Matt Ryan's highly effecient 33-for-43 passing. That lack of balance may haunt them later down the line this season, but for now a win is a win and in Sunday's case, it's the first win of the season.

PHOTOS: See Images From the Falcons' 31-24 Win Over the Rams

2. Depth Steps In, Steps Up: Injuries took a major toll on the Falcons against the Rams, but they showed a lot of grit by not only continuing to build a lead in the first half, but holding on to in the second. On the first offensive series fullback Bradie Ewing had to leave the game. After Jackson's 8-yard touchdown catch to end that drive, he left the game as well. The list of injuries continued as the first half went on and included Cliff Matthews, Asante Samuel, Kroy Biermann and Sean Weatherspoon. In total, five starters left the game and never returned Sunday and that's when things got really interesting. Depth players like linebacker Joplo Bartu, Robert Alford and Jason Snelling stepped in to fill the roles. Bartu, subbing in for Weatherspoon, came up big, gathering six tackles, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hit in addition to playing solid pass coverage. Veterans like William Moore took notice of what the young guys were able to do: "Every time we looked up it seemed like we had some leaders going down. Those guys wills be all right through the week. I was excited watching the young guys playing some ball. They were getting me geeked up out there, the way they were playing. They will hold their own. I think we're going to be all right."

3. Strong Special Teams: On a day when a team's top receiver goes for a career-high 182 yards, it's odd to discuss special teams play, but is anyone really surprised by what Julio Jones does anymore? After special teams appeared to be a sore spot for the Falcons in the preseason, they go and present a game like this and remove some lingering concern from the exhibition season. Punter Matt Bosher led the way, punting six times, landing two inside the 20-yard line and forcing one fair catch. The coverage was equally as good, holding the dangerous rookie return man Tavon Austin to just six yards on returns. Bosher's long on the day was 63 yards and he averaged 53 yards per punt. Kickoffs were also impressive with Bosher kicking off six times with only one returned. The other five were touchbacks.

4. Third Down D: The Falcons defense found themselves in a lot of third down situations and managed to hold the Rams to just a 41 percent conversion rate. In total the Falcons were 7-for-17 on third downs, but some of the biggest plays of the game came on the key down. Although some of those third-down stops turned into fourth-down conversions for the Rams (2-for-2 on fourth down), the Falcons were still able to keep the Rams from moving their offense when it mattered most. If they can keep up work like that as the season progresses, teams may think twice about going for it on third down.

5. Second Half Troubles Continue: Last season the Falcons seemed to come out flat in the second half and squander some of the big first-half leads they built. Heading into halftime on Sunday, they had 24-3 lead, but by the time the fourth quarter began, it was 24-10 and three minutes into the final quarter the Falcons lead had shrunk to 24-17. A quick response TD by the Falcons put the Falcons back up comfortably, 31-17 before the Rams scored again to make the game closer than it should have been at 31-24. A clock-eating drive by the offense put the game away late, but the damage was done. Tight end Tony Gonzalez said it reminded him of last season and the Falcons need to work on putting opponents away: "We'll take the win every time. We've definitely got to finish a lot better. It's been something we haven't done going back to last year. We build up a nice lead like that, we've got to put the foot on the pedal and keep going. We can't give up a lead like that."


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