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Blocked Punt Nearly Derailed Rams In Week 2 vs. Falcons

While the Los Angeles Rams were the clear favorite heading into this Week 2 matchup, the Atlanta Falcons made it clear that they were not intimidated by the defending champs.

The Los Angeles Rams are in the win column for the first time in 2022.

The defending Super Bowl Champions survived a near-improbable comeback attempt from the Atlanta Falcons to come away with the 31-27 victory at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA on Sunday. With the win, the Rams moved to 1-1 on the season.

While Los Angeles was the clear favorite heading into the Week 2 matchup, the Falcons made it clear that they would not be intimidated.

Despite holding the lead for the entire game, the Rams nearly blew a 28-3 third-quarter lead that would have given the Falcons a bit of retribution from a pair of numbers with which they are quite familiar.

For those keeping track, the infamous score has been tied to Atlanta since the Falcons fell victim to the largest late-game comeback in Super Bowl history at the hands of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.

As Atlanta did for the Patriots on that fateful night in February 2017, the Rams let the Falcons back through the door with uncharacteristic miscues and flubs.

In fact, one play nearly turned the tide in Atlanta’s favor for good.

After Falcons’ quarterback Marcus Mariota had tossed second-half touchdown passes to receivers Drake London and Olamide Zaccheaus, the Falcons found themselves within striking distance, down 31-17 to the Rams. It was then that their special teams and defense gave them a chance to truly challenge the champs.

Rookie linebacker Troy Anderson blocked Riley Dixon’s punt, which fellow Atlanta linebacker Lorenzo Carter returned 26 yards for a touchdown. A two-point conversion pass from Mariota to London brought the Falcons within 31-25 with 5:06 remaining. It was the first time since 1990 that the Falcons have blocked a punt in a regular-season game and returned it for a touchdown.

Following the game, Rams head coach Sean McVay recognized that a number of breakdowns and mishaps contributed to what had the potential to be a disastrous play. Ultimately, the Rams needed to provide Dixon with greater protection, and this more time to execute the punt.

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“On the blocked punt, they had a free runner right up the middle long snapper,” McVay said. “[Long snapper] Matt (Orzech) just ended up missing his block. When you get that internal penetration like that, it's going to be tough to be able to get it off.”

While McVay was critical of his blockers, he also advised of the need for speed when it comes to Dixon’s ability to make timely punts in crucial game situations.

“Yeah. I mean, you'd like to be able to speed up the delivery, but we didn't even block them as what it looked like to me,” McVay added. “I'll have to go back and look at it. But when I saw it, it was almost like there was an unabated a gap rusher right up through the middle. So no matter if you want to be able to speed it up on a two-step delivery, sometimes those are tough to be able to get off.

McVay’s sentiments indicate that it will be a heavy work week in practice for Los Angeles’ special teams unit. However, the Rams coach was impressed with the strength and emotional fortitude that they showed in holding the lead and earning the victory.

Los Angeles committed yet another costly turnover on their ensuing drive when Falcons’ defender Darren Hall forced wideout Cooper Kupp to fumble. Atlanta recovered the ball at the Rams' 37 yard-line. Mariota got the Falcons to the Rams 24 before throwing a game-sealing interception to Rams’ cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

“Our guys just stayed the course. Hey, I'm being honest. You might have to bleep that out. My mom will get mad at me too. But no, what he was trying to play through obviously the calf things, but I have total confidence that we'll rebound and he'll respond. I want these guys to be eyes up as we move forward and attack these problems that we can fix.”

The Rams must now begin correcting their mistakes as they prepare for a Week 3 showdown with their divisional rivals, the Arizona Cardinals, on Sunday, Sept. 25 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ. 

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