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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 16 January, 2019

Falcons stay on the road to Super Bowl redemption with upset win against the Rams

It will be the Falcons v the Eagles in the NFC divisional round next week.

Image: Kelvin Kuo

THE ATLANTA FALCONS survived another wobble in the NFL playoffs as they outlasted the Los Angeles Rams 26-13 in Saturday’s late wildcard game.

Atlanta let an early double-digit lead slip away before holding on to set up a showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles in next week’s NFC divisional round.

The Falcons, who famously blew a 28-3 in last season’s Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, jumped out to a 13-0 lead as Devonta Freeman scored early in the second quarter with some help from center Alex Mack.

Los Angeles scored the final 10 points of the second quarter to cut Atlanta’s lead to 13-10 at half time.

Despite losing their early lead, the Falcons never panicked and Dan Quinn’s team appears to have learned from last year’s Super Bowl mistakes.

A pair of clock-chewing drives in the second half resulted in field goals before Matt Ryan floated a eight-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones with 5:48 remaining to put the game out of reach.

Ryan went 21 of 30 for 218 yards but Rams quarterback Jared Goff was wildly inconsistent, despite making a few fantastic throws. He finished 24 of 45 for 259 yards and a touchdown but it was not enough to beat a Falcons defense loaded up to stop the run.

The Falcons corralled MVP candidate Todd Gurley, who led the NFC in rushing despite sitting out the season finale, for much of the game. Gurley finished with 101 yards on 14 carries, though 61 yards came in the fourth quarter.

Goff was not the only young Rams player who was off on Saturday. Second-year receiver Pharoh Cooper, who was selected to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner, fumbled late in the first quarter to set up Atlanta’s first touchdown and give the Falcons a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter. Cooper bobbled several other kicks as jitters were clearly a factor.

The Rams eventually settled down, but the early deficit was too large to overcome.

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