The reigning Super Bowl champions are out for blood and on a few extra days' rest as the Falcons head west to face them this coming Sunday. Both the Rams and Falcons are coming off less-than-stellar Week 1 losses.
The Falcons lost in comeback fashion to the Saints, while the Rams received a second-half pounding from the Bills.
Both teams are out for redemption. So, where does that leave us? Along for the ride, that's where.
Here are five things to watch as the Falcons face the Rams in Week 2 of the 2022 season.
1. Tyler Allgeier to make NFL debut?
Arthur Smith said after Friday's final practice of the week that the Falcons would rule Damien Williams out for Sunday's game. Williams injured his rib during the first half of the Falcons loss to the Saints. He attempted to come back into the game in the fourth quarter, but the rib injury lingered. Williams did not practice this week.
For all of the happenstances listed above, it was quite a surprise when Allgeier was listed as inactive ahead of the Saints game. Of course, no one knew what would happen to Williams, but when it did, it showed just how important Allgeier's presence on the active, game day roster could be. The expectation is that with Williams out, Allgeier slides into that backup role behind Cordarrelle Patterson. Thus, making his league debut.
If Allgeier's first game in the league is just as solid as Drake London or Arnold Ebiketie's was last week? It should be good news for the Falcons.
2. Keeping the run game going
Speaking of the run game, Sunday showed us a multi-dimensional offense that didn't fear running the ball. Patterson had one of the best performances of his entire career, surpassing the 100-yard rushing mark. Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota did some good things tucking and running it himself, in plays that were designed and those that were not.
By the end of Sunday's game with the Saints, the Falcons had rushed for over 200 yards. It's a feat they have struggled to surpass consistently throughout the last few years. Being able to mimic that production against the Rams defense will be just as difficult as it was against the Saints. But perhaps the Falcons have a new-born sense of confidence when running the ball after last week's performance.
Even in a loss, the steps the run game took were obvious, and necessary, as the Falcons search for more success offensively.
3. Replicating first half sacks
Like the run game, the Falcons saw obvious progress in affecting the opposing quarterback. For a team that went all of 2021 only accumulating 17 total sacks, having four on Sunday was a huge development for this defense that has nine new starters.
And it wasn't just the sack numbers themselves, but just how much the Falcons were making Jameis Winston uncomfortable in the pocket throughout the first three quarters of Sunday's game. He was, by all accounts, under duress. That is, until the fourth quarter, when the Saints kept their running backs in to protect, and even adding a blocking tight end here and there, too. This decision changed the way the Falcons were affecting Winston, and he was able to connect on a number of would-be, game-winning passes.
Everyone knows the connection Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp have. Everyone knows how the Rams can move the ball when they get going. Making sure that's not an easy endeavor is of the upmost importance for the Falcons defensive front this coming Sunday.
"The whole thing to me for three quarters was really encouraging," Dean Pees said of the pass rush against the Saints. "I was so anxious to see where we were from last year and I had really anticipated that game and really wanted to show that these guys have really improved and that we can play that kind of football. I thought for three quarters, we looked like one of the better defenses. We were a good defense. We played our ass off. I thought those guys followed the game plan... I just thought that's the way you want to play."
"I'd love to be mad because we lost a game," Pees continued, "but I'm not mad because we lost a game. I'm disappointed because we lost the game because we made so much progress and had a chance to prove to everybody how much progress we made and we let them off the hook."
4. Redemption in the red zone
One of the major issues for the Falcons down the final stretch of Sunday's loss was going 50 percent in the red zone.
Here's the thing, as much as everyone in the Falcons fanbase loves Younghoe Koo, the less the Falcons see him jog out onto the field for a 30- to 50-yard field goal, the better. It likely means they're scoring instead of having to settle for three. It's what came back to bite the Falcons in the butt against the Saints, this lack of production in the red zone. That, and Mariota's fumble inside the 10-yard line to give New Orleans the ball back instead of putting a nail in the proverbial coffin with a touchdown.
A 50 percent conversion rate inside the 20 is not going to cut it against the Rams. When they get the opportunity to get in the redzone, they're going to have to make the most of it, and that means putting up seven points, not three.
5. Making sure there's no carry over from loss
As followers of the Falcons, you've probably seen a loss like Sunday's carry over into the next week. For what it's worth, even in Smith and Co.'s first season in 2021, that didn't seem to be the case. The expectation to carry on - not carry over - should be the same this week.
Veteran leaders of the Falcons said on Sunday and then again on Monday that there shouldn't have to be some fancy speech made to the locker room to move on. Everyone should already feel accountable to do so within themselves.
Is this a marker of a culture shift in Atlanta? Perhaps. But the answer to that question lays in what the Falcons do in Los Angeles and then again in Seattle next week. If they can put together four complete quarters of play against the Rams and Seahawks over the next two weeks? Even if they don't necessarily win both games, that would be a marker of a culture shift as it is putting action behind words.
That's what I'd like to see.
Our favorite snaps as the team puts in the work at Flowery Branch to prepare for this week's game against the LA Rams, presented by Gatorade.