How it ended:
Just when you thought the Rams were going to implode in the 2nd half again, strong safety Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe steps in to nab his 4th interception in as many games, and his 2nd game-stopper of the season.
With 1:45 remaining in the 4th quarter and the Falcons down by 5, Jim Haslett dialed up the blitz again and brought the house against Chris Redmon forcing an errant throw to Michael Jenkins on a deep crossing pattern where Atogwe was playing center field. Atogwe ran it back 27 yards to midfield where St Louis had the arduous task of running out the clock to seal the win.
Apparently Steven Jackson didn't get the memo about running out the clock and decided to just take it to the endzone with a 50 yard burst. That was Jackson's second 50+ yarder in 2 consecutive games. This one put the Falcons on ice and gave the Rams third 3rd victory of the year.
How it all went down:
Staying true to their M.O., the Rams started out fierce in the first half with 3 touchdown passes from backup QB Gus Frerotte. With a 1st & goal from the Atlanta 1 yard line, Frerotte hit TE Randy McMichael in the endzone when McMichael peeled off the line and jogged unaccounted for towards the corner. That pass was set up beautifully by the fact that McMichael was left in to block for almost the entire drive before faking a blocking assignment and ending up wide open for 6.
Frerotte's second TD pass went to a streaking Torry Holt down the sidelines for a 31 yard strike to end a drive that started from their own 5 yard line. Frerotte hit Holt for 38 yards and Drew Bennett for 24 before finding Holt again to give the Rams a 14-0 lead.
The Rams appeared to be cooling off with 3 consecutive 3 & outs, but the defense was staying nuclear hot, registering a sack (Adam Carriker) and stripping the ball from wide receiver Roddy White (Fakhir Brown) to keep the lead in tact. The Rams offense picked back up with a little over 4 minutes left in the half when Frerotte hit Jackson on a flare pass that went for 37 yards to set up their 3rd touchdown of the game. Wide receiver Isaac Bruce moved into 5th place all-time in the NFL in receiving with his 38th reception and 2nd touchdown of the year to give the Rams a comfortable 21-0 lead.
In the 2nd half, you could see the ominous writing on the walls yet again as the Falcons took their 2nd posession of the game 61 yards, but settled for 3 points. Okay, no harm no foul - right? Wrong. The Rams 3rd posession of the 3rd quarter resulted in an interception (L. Milloy) as Gus Frerotte missed Torry Holt on a skinny post in the middle of the field. Fakhir Brown rectified that problem by taking away one of his own when Harrington lofted one in the general vicinity of Roddy White while under heavy pressure. To this point in the game, Harrington was blitzed 21 times, hit 4 times, hurried 10 times and sacked 3 times.
It was really just a matter of time, and in came 5 year backup Chris Redmond to spell the struggling Harrington who was a little banged up following a sack by Chris Draft earlier in the quarter. If Rams fans felt that their lead was safe after the removal of Atlanta's starting QB, they were quick to discover that the change under center was an upgrade.
Chris Redmond began to systematically pick apart the Rams defense to start the 4th quarter and capped his first drive of the game with the Falcons' first touchdown of the game. Redmond threw a perfectly placed 15 yard pass to the corner of the endzone to Roddy White, who was slowly having a really good game of his own. White ended the game with 10 catches for 146 yards and THAT score.
After an ill-adviced two point conversion try that failed, Atlanta had suddenly closed to within 12 and were establishing some momentum. That momentum only gained strength when Steven Jackson had a 37 yard pass hit him right in the bread basket only to bounce right out and hit the ground forcing his team to punt. On the ensuing drive, Redmond took his team 72 yards and hit 5 different receivers before finding Mike Jenkins in the endzone from 5 yards out to bring his team within 5.
The sound of freshly bitten fingernails hitting the floor was deafening. With 7 minutes remaining, Gus Frerotte was now charged with maintaining posession and keeping the Falcons offense off the field by moving the ball and killing the clock. Instead, Frerotte killed the posession and maintained the clock after hitting a wide open Chris Crocker of the Falcons on his 3rd play from scrimmage.
Now the Rams defense was called upon to do their job. Although the Falcons had lost their previous 25 consecutive games when trailing after going into the 4th quarter, it looked as though they had a good chance to snap that streak. However, the Rams defense held their own when Tye Hill stepped in front of a pass intended for Joe Horn on 4th down and stalled the Falcons' drive at the St Louis 9 yard line.
Atlanta had one last chance to drive for the win when the Rams gained only 2 yards on the following posession. After a Donnie Jones punt, the Falcons had the ball on their own 48 with 1:45 to play.
Enter Oshiamogho Atogwe. Exit Atogwe, enter Steven Jackson. Fade to black.
News, Notes & Anecdotes:
- The Atlanta Falcons just lost their 26th consecutive game when trailing after heading into the 4th quarter
- Before the game began, the Falcons were dead last in 4th quarter points scored, and the Rams were 2nd to last. Those statistics have changed hands after this game.
- After Alex Barron left the game early to have his hand examined, the Rams were forced to field their 17th different line combination of the season
- Atlanta is now 2-8 in goal-to-go situations (worst in the NFL)
- Isaac Bruce moves into 5th place all-time on the recieving list
- Torry Holt had his 46th career 100+ yd receiving game
- Oshiomogho Atogwe has 4 consecutive games with an interception