Rams excited for first LA playoff game in 39 years

AFP
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay talks to quarterback Jared Goff during their December 24, 2017 game against the Tennessee Titans (AFP Photo/Frederick Breedon)

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay talks to quarterback Jared Goff during their December 24, 2017 game against the Tennessee Titans

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay talks to quarterback Jared Goff during their December 24, 2017 game against the Tennessee Titans (AFP Photo/Frederick Breedon)

Los Angeles (AFP) - With only six players boasting post-season experience and a rookie head coach, the Los Angeles Rams will be unfamiliar with NFL playoff tension when they entertain Atlanta on Saturday.

But Sean McVay, the NFL's youngest head coach at age 31, isn't worried that his Rams squad, which boasts the NFL's top-scoring attack, will suffer at the hands of a veteran Falcons' lineup hungry to atone for last year's Super Bowl collapse against New England.

"I don't think it's a concern," McVay said. "We have a confident group. We've got a mature group for a young football team and those guys in that locker room that have been in playoff atmospheres can provide that leadership in terms of what to expect."

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

Expect about 70,000 supporters to be excited at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which has not hosted an NFL playoff game since January 1979. The Rams departed for suburban Anaheim and then for St. Louis after the 1994 campaign before returning to LA in 2016.

"It's definitely a cool thing," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. "After football has been gone here for so long and we came back year two and being able to bring a playoff game to the Coliseum is very cool."

Goff says the Rams played in plenty of big games on the way to an 11-5 record and the NFC West division crown.

"It's a big game and we have experience with that stuff," Goff said. "I think that experience will translate mostly to this game."

- Falcons stronger for facing fire -

Saturday's other NFL first-round playoff game will find Tennessee at Kansas City while Sunday's contests feature Carolina at New Orleans and Buffalo at Jacksonville. Defending champion New England and Pittsburgh have byes in the AFC while Philadelphia and Minnesota own NFC byes.

The Rams, in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, have been powered by 28 touchdown passes from Goff with only seven interceptions while running back Todd Gurley has an NFL-best 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns.

The Falcons are sparked by Matt Ryan, who threw 20 touchdown passes, receiver Julio Jones, who had 1,444 receiving yards and three touchdowns, and Devonta Freeman, who ran for 865 yards and seven touchdowns.

Atlanta, which reached the playoffs only on the final day of the season, squandered a 25-point edge to lose Super Bowl 51 to New England 34-28.

"I love the resiliency and the toughness of this team," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "When you've been through some of the fire together, you come out the other side stronger as a brotherhood."

- Bills, Jaguars, Titans end droughts -

Buffalo snaps a playoff drought dating to 1999 while Jacksonville reached the post-season for the first time since 2007.

The Bills could be without rusher LeSean McCoy due to an ankle injury. He has carried 287 times for 1,138 yards with six touchdowns this season and has a team-high 59 catches for 448 yards and two touchdowns.

The Jaguars lead the NFL in rushing offense while the Bills own the third-worst run defense and second-worst passing attack.

Tennessee reached the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and will have a rematch of a game last month in which Kansas City led 17-7 in the fourth quarter before the Titans rallied for a 19-17 triumph. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith hopes his team can win a home playoff game for the first time in 24 years.

"It would be nice to break that," Smith said. "We would love for that to be a byproduct of hard work and getting a win."

New Orleans will try for a third victory this season over Carolina, having downed the Panthers 34-13 in September at Carolina and 31-21 last month in the Superdome. Since 1970, teams that swept a season series also won a playoff matchup in 13 of 20 opportunities.

"There are a number of things we have to improve on if we are going to play well in the playoffs," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Our tempo has been sluggish. We have to eliminate pre-snap penalties. Our third-down numbers have to be better."

What to Read Next