With several Atlanta Falcons being forced to leave the game with injuries, it was up to Julio Jones and Matt Ryan to lead the team to victory over the St. Louis Rams.
Jones matched a career-high in yards with 182 – a total he matched in last season’s NFC Championship game – on 11 receptions, including an 81-yard touchdown; Ryan threw for 374 yards and two touchdowns on 31/41 passing.
And they did it without any semblance of a running game.
On a day in which the Falcons (1-1) made Steven Jackson a captain going up against his former team, the running back would leave the game with a thigh bruise after scoring an eight-yard touchdown on the opening drive.
A few plays before, Atlanta lost fullback Bradie Ewing to a shoulder injury. And just like that, the Falcons’ starting backfield was gone.
Before the Falcons made it into the half, they had lost three additional starters: defensive end Kroy Biermann, cornerback Asante Samuel, and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
Under Mike Smith, the Falcons are known for starting games fast, and this game was no exception: The Falcons jumped on the Rams 24-3 heading into halftime.
However, the Falcons are also known for falling into a lull and allowing the opposing team to sneak back into the game. Again, this game was no exception: The Rams (1-1) battled back to make it a 24-17 game.
Atlanta sealed the game with a nine-play, 80-yard drive that consisted of eight straight passes and one run: an 11-yard touchdown scamper by the versatile Jason Snelling.
The Rams scored again, but the Falcons successfully ran out the clock with a little over two minutes remaining.
Sam Bradford tossed two touchdown passes to rookie Tavon Austin, and another to Austin Pettis. Bradford finished with 352 yards, the three aforementioned touchdowns, and an interception that was returned 68 yards for a touchdown by Osi Umenyiora.
Atlanta’s offensive line proved to be an issue for the second consecutive week as Ryan was sacked twice and pressured on several other occasions.
The Falcons mustered just 36 rushing yards in the win.
Atlanta is now 21-3 following a loss under Smith.