Defense closes out first win for Rams

After holding the Atlanta Falcons to three points in the first half, it takes a couple of defensive stops late in the fourth quarter for Los Angeles to preserve a 31-27 win at home

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (News4usonline) – Sean McVay was confident that the Los Angeles Rams would come out and give the right response to their defeat to the Buffalo Bills in Week 1. For the better part of three quarters, the Rams handled their business against the Atlanta Falcons, holding a comfortable 31-10 lead going into the fourth quarter.

The Rams earned their first win of the season, thanks to several defensive stops in the final period to come away with a 31-27 win at SoFi Stadium in Week 2. Linebacker Justin Hollins said it was important for the Rams’ defense to end the game the way that it did.

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Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) tries to get to Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) during an NFL football game that was played at SoFi Stadium on Sept. 18, 2022. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“It’s an important thing,” Hollins said. “Defense wins championships. Our defense, we kind of let up a little bit at the end right there, so we had the opportunity to close it out and step up to adversity, and going forward it feels good.”

Responding to adversity and how one responds to adversity depends on leadership. The objective for the Rams was to come up with a win against the Falcons. Simple enough. The Rams had a rough outing against the Bills in their season opener, so the team needed the proper response to that defeat. To McVay, the Rams got the outcome they set out to get against the Falcons, and that’s a victory.

“First of all, really proud of this team finding a way to be able to get it done,” McVay said after the game. “Man are there so many things that we can clean up. But I’ll tell you what, (I) haven’t been doing this that long, but I’ve been doing it long enough to know you never take a win for granted in this league. It’s too difficult to come by. We’re going to have our eyes up.”

“We’re going to move forward the right way,” he added. “I’m really proud of the resilience that I saw from this group. A lot of things that we created some of our own adversity, but you credit the Falcons and (Atlanta Falcons Head Coach) Coach Smith’s unit for being able to kind of just make enough plays to stay in it.” 

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Los Angles Rams running back Darrell Henderson Jr. (27) rushes for some of the 47 yards he gained against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 18, 2022. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

In the days leading up to the Rams playing Atlanta, McVay talked about what he was looking for during the week from leaders on the team.

“I just think the right response,” McVay said.“Being able to attack our process and our preparation with the right approach, with an enjoyment with the way you’re going about it, but still having that…You guys hear me talk about having an urgency but being able to enjoy that preparation.”

“I think that’s what we were hunting up, but I want them to be themselves,” McVay added. “What I don’t want is one game to change the confidence, the swag, but also want to be able to respond the right way from a setback. And that’s okay to feel that way, but let’s not hang onto those emotions too long where it inhibits our ability to move forward. I haven’t sensed that in the least bit and I think that’s been reflected.”

Adversity is nothing new to the Super Bowl champions. Last season, the Rams didn’t win a game during the month of November. However, the team rebounded and lost only one more game for the rest of the season, including the postseason. Losing one game at the beginning of the season is not a cause for panic, but when you win a Super Bowl ring, any stumble by the defending champs is going to be more glaring.

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Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) in action against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 18, 2022. Stafford passed for 272 yards and three touchdowns in the Rams’ 31-27 win at SoFi Stadium. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

“With the right kind of leaders, though, you can find your way through that adversity,” McVay remarked. “Football, you’re inevitably going to go through adversity, and a lot of the guys that have been on this team, even just going back to last year, I think we all know if we were all sitting here in the month of November, what that felt like.”

“In the moment you’re like, ‘Man, doesn’t ever feel like you’re going to find your way out of it.’ But when you got the right kinds of people, you give yourself a chance to come out swinging,” he added. “That’s exactly what we have on this group, but not minimizing what a great challenge it’s going to be against the Falcons. We’re looking forward to shooting our shot, playing to the best of our ability, and they put themselves in a position to be able to do that.”

The Rams came out and played well enough to earn their first win of the season, building a 21-3 halftime lead. That lead grew to 21 points and then evaporated. A sack by Aaron Donald ( No. 100 in his career) on the final play of the game and a game-changing interception by Jalen Ramsey on the previous Atlanta drive, sealed the deal for the Rams (1-1).

Safety Nick Scott said the win could be attributed to how well the leaders on the team as well as other players stepped up.

“That’s one of the reasons why we won. In a football game, anything and everything can happen, but I don’t think that any of our leaders or any of our guys at all flinched,” said Scott. “We just kind of knew what we had to do, especially the defense. We had that turnover. It’s unfortunate. That’s a great play by the [Atlanta] defense. We get out there and AD [Aaron Donald] is just harping over and over again. He said, ‘You know what we do! You know what we do!’ So, when you got a leader that’s that confident, all that does is bleed into the rest of the defense, the rest of the team.” 

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Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (5) makes the hit on Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) during an NFL game played at SoFi Stadium on Sept. 18, 2022. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline

Both the Rams and the Falcons walked into Week 2 trying to secure win No. 1 on the season. As the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Rams needed to make a statement that they are still the best team in the league.

The Falcons, coming off a tough loss to the New Orleans Saints with a castoff quarterback, had some things to prove themselves.

In that vein, Atlanta got off to a rough start with a missed field goal attempt on the first drive of the game. That missed field goal followed a sack produced by Bobby Wagner on Atlanta quarterback Marcus Mariota.

On their first drive of the game, the Rams did something they failed to do against the Bills during their Thursday Night Football matchup, and that was to get wide receiver Allen Robinson II involved in the game early.

Robinson hauled in Matthew Stafford’s first pass of the game that gave the Rams a first down. Stafford went to the well again, hitting Robinson with a 1-yard scoring pass on the same drive to give the Rams a 7-0 lead. The Rams made it 14-0 after Darrell Henderson Jr. ran eight yards for a score.

After an Atlanta field goal, rookie defensive back Cobie Durant helped out the offense when he intercepted a Mariota pass, setting up Stafford’s 3-yard pass to Cooper Kupp to give the Rams a 21-3 cushion going into intermission.