After allowing a combined four sacks in their previous two games entering Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons gave up five sacks during their 37-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan sustained an ankle injury that forced him out of action on the Rams’ fifth sack of the game, which occurred with 13:46 remaining in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., who was recruited by and played for Falcons coach Dan Quinn at Florida, led the way on Sunday with three sacks. Linebacker Cory Littleton also recorded a sack, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald had the strip-sack on the play Ryan got injured.
“That amount of quarterback hits and sacks for sure was a real factor in this game,” Quinn said. “ … For sure tonight I thought that was a big part of this game.”
Los Angeles also registered nine quarterback hits on Sunday and generated pressure for much of the afternoon. Atlanta’s offense was held to 224 yards, its lowest total of the season, and didn’t score its first touchdown until late in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons invested heavily in their offensive line this offseason, signing veteran guards James Carpenter and Jamon Brown as well as using two first-round picks on guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Kaleb McGary. Lindstrom has been on injured reserve since Week 1, but Carpenter, Brown and McGary all played against the Rams.
“It’s hard to tell what happened out there," McGary said after the game. "Sometimes everything that possibly could go wrong does go wrong. That is what seems like happened today."
After Los Angeles kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 40-yard field goal attempt on the Rams' opening possession, the Falcons had the opportunity to extend their 3-0 lead in the first quarter and put some early pressure on their opponents. That drive ended rather quickly, however, after Fowler sacked Ryan on second down and Littleton sacked him on third down.
Another instance of the Rams' pass rush influencing the outcome of Sunday's game came late in the first half. The Falcons gained possession at their own 45-yard line with all three timeouts and 54 seconds remaining on the clock, plenty of time to cut into the Rams' 13-3 lead. Instead, the Rams' pressure forced and incomplete pass on second down and Fowler's second sack of the game ended the drive on third down.
“I think with where they put guys and the matchups that they bring, they were able to understand our protection schemes and are able to prevent slides from happening by putting linebackers in certain spots," Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub said. "That is something that Wade Phillips has always been good about.”
This is the second time this season in which Ryan was sacked five times in a single game. The Tennessee Titans also registered five sacks in their 24-10 victory against the Falcons in Week 4. Through seven weeks this season, the Falcons have allowed 19 sacks and 51 hits on the quarterback.