2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Falcons overcome injuries, beat Rams 31-24

By CHARLES ODUM - AP Sports Writer
    2013-09-16 03:15

ATLANTA (AP) - It looked like it would be Steven Jackson's day when he scored on an 8-yard catch against his former St. Louis teammates to cap the Falcons' opening drive.

Instead, the touchdown was the end of Jackson's day. The running back left with a thigh injury, the first in a long string of injuries for Atlanta that forced coach Mike Smith and his staff to recast their plans.

The depleted Falcons relied heavily on Matt Ryan's passes to Julio Jones while adding one key rushing score by backup running back Jason Snelling that was the difference in Sunday's 31-24 win over the Rams.

Atlanta overcame injuries to five starters in the first half: Jackson, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot), defensive end Kroy Biermann (right ankle), fullback Bradie Ewing (shoulder) and cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh). None returned. Backup defensive end Cliff Matthews (neck) came back after his first-half injury.

``We have guys who can step in and carry the load and we don't miss a beat,'' Jones said.

Ryan and Jones carried most of the load.

Ryan completed 33 of 43 passes for 374 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Jones caught 11 passes for 182 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown catch.

``Julio and Matt seemed to be in sync, seeing the defense the same way,'' Smith said. ``When you have your receiver and quarterback doing that, you have a chance to be successful.''

The Falcons (1-1) ran for only 36 yards, but that meager total included Snellings' 11-yard touchdown run late in the game. The run followed eight straight passes.

The Falcons led 24-3 at halftime. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora returned an interception 68 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

The Rams (1-1) rallied as Sam Bradford passed for 352 yards and three touchdowns, including two to rookie Tavon Austin. Chris Givens had five catches for 105 yards. Austin Pettis had eight receptions for 78 yards and one touchdown.

``We just eliminated the mistakes,'' Rams offensive tackle Jake Long said. ``We had some penalties and mistakes in the first half. ... It was a little too late. We have to correct those mistakes early and can't spot them that many points.''

Here are five things we learned as the Falcons recovered from their opening loss at New Orleans while handing the Rams their first loss:

1. RAMMED BY MISTAKES: St. Louis drew seven penalties for 53 yards, including flags on special teams that hurt the team's field position. The Rams' biggest mistake was Bradford's only interception, which Umenyiora caught on a deflection off running back Daryl Richardson's hands. ``I took my eye off it,'' Richardson said. ``I was looking to run and I need to make sure I eye that ball and catch it.''

2. FALCONS CAN WIN WITHOUT BALANCE: The Falcons hope Jackson can return from his thigh injury and provide more balance to the offense, but Ryan proved he can use screens and quick passes as substitutes for a running game. Jones, in his third season, is proving he ranks among the game's elite receivers. He had 1,198 yards receiving with 10 TDs in 2012 and could be headed for a bigger 2013. Jones should be even more dangerous when Roddy White, who has played through an ankle sprain in the first two games, returns to full speed.

3. TAVON'S TIME: Austin, the No. 8 overall pick in this year's draft, showed some rookie growing pains early in the game. On one play he turned for a pass from Bradford too late. Another incompletion came on what appeared to be a busted play. ``I could have had some big plays but didn't, so I blame myself,'' Austin said. After having only two catches for 8 yards in the first half, Austin was a force in the final two quarters and became Bradford's favorite receiver. He drew a team-high 12 targets overall while making six catches for 47 yards, including touchdowns of 6 and 10 yards.

4. BARTU IS A ROOKIE SURPRISE: Joplo Bartu, an undrafted rookie linebacker from Texas State, made his first start for Atlanta and had six tackles, including two for losses. Bartu moved past Stephen Nicholas to make the start and appears to be far more than a one-week wonder. The linebacker is the early pick to be the bargain signing in general manager Thomas Dimitroff's rookie class.

5. FALCONS ARE RESILIENT: Yes, there are problems to overcome if the Falcons hope to make a repeat trip to the NFC championship game. The biggest issue may be an offensive line that has allowed five sacks in two games, including two against the Rams. But the Falcons, who lost their opener at New Orleans, showed impressive resiliency. Atlanta hasn't lost back-to-back games since 2009. The Falcons have won 13 straight when coming off a loss.

---

AP NFL website: http://pro32.ap.org/poll

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Ahmad DixonDec 21 11:52a

The Minnesota Vikings have declared SS Ahmad Dixon, LB Anthony Barr, OT Carter Bykowski, OG Charlie Johnson, TE Kyle Rudolph, CB Shaun Prater, FB Zach Line inactive for Week 16.

Devier PoseyDec 21 11:52a

The Houston Texans have declared WR DeVier Posey, TE Garrett Graham, LB Jason Ankrah, S Josh Aubrey, LB Mike Mohamed, QB Tom Savage, OG Xavier Su'a-Filo inactive for Week 16.

A.J. KleinDec 21 11:52a

The Carolina Panthers have declared LB A.J. Klein, OG Amini Silatolu, CB Carrington Byndom, OT David Foucault, RB DeAngelo Williams, DL Kyle Love, SS Robert Lester inactive for Week 16.

Charles GodfreyDec 21 11:52a

The Atlanta Falcons have declared CB Charles Godfrey, LB James Anderson, OG Jon Asamoah, CB Ricardo Allen, QB Sean Renfree, DL Stansly Maponga, LB Tyler Starr inactive for Week 16.

Jamarca SanfordDec 21 11:52a

The New Orleans Saints have declared SS Jamarca Sanford, DL Lawrence Virgil, LB Moise Fokou, WR Seantavius Jones, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, OT Terron Armstead, RB Travaris Cadet inactive for Week 16.

Justin BrownDec 21 11:52a

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared OG Chris Hubbard, DL Clifton Geathers, CB Ike Taylor, WR Justin Brown, QB Landry Jones, TE Matt Spaeth, SS Troy Polamalu inactive for Week 16.

Clifton GeathersDec 21 11:52a

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared OG Chris Hubbard, DL Clifton Geathers, CB Ike Taylor, WR Justin Brown, QB Landry Jones, TE Matt Spaeth, SS Troy Polamalu inactive for Week 16.

Carl BradfordDec 21 11:42a

The Green Bay Packers have declared DL Bruce Gaston, LB Carl Bradford, CB Davon House, C Garth Gerhart, WR Jeff Janis, TE Justin Perillo, QB Scott Tolzien inactive for Week 16.

Chris McCainDec 21 11:42a

The Miami Dolphins have declared LB Chris McCain, OT Dallas Thomas, RB Daniel Thomas, CB Don Jones, WR Matt Hazel, OG Nate Garner, WR Rishard Matthews inactive for Week 16.

Arthur BrownDec 21 11:42a

The Baltimore Ravens have declared LB Arthur Brown, DL Casey Walker, CB Chris Greenwood, C Gino Gradkowski, WR Michael Campanaro, OG Ryan Jensen, DL Terrence Cody inactive for Week 16.

Aaron MurrayDec 21 11:42a

The Kansas City Chiefs have declared QB Aaron Murray, RB Charcandrick West, WR Donnie Avery, C Eric Kush, OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, CB Marcus Cooper, DL Nick X. Williams inactive for Week 16.

Gary BarnidgeDec 21 11:42a

The Cleveland Browns have declared OT Andrew McDonald, TE Gary Barnidge, RB Glenn Winston, CB Joe Haden, DB K'Waun Williams, WR Rodney Smith, OT Vinston Painter inactive for Week 16.

Chris ConteDec 21 11:42a

The Chicago Bears have declared FS Chris Conte, QB David Fales, OG Kyle Long, PK Robbie Gould, CB Terrance Mitchell, DL Trevor Scott, DL Will Sutton inactive for Week 16.

Dakota DozierDec 21 11:33a

The New York Jets have declared OL Dakota Dozier, SS Jaiquawn Jarrett, QB Matt Simms, FS Rontez Miles, DL T.J. Barnes, WR Walter Powell, OG Wesley Johnson inactive for Week 16.

Alfonzo DennardDec 21 11:33a

The New England Patriots have declared CB Alfonzo Dennard, OG Dan Connolly, RB James White, OT Jordan Devey, WR Julian Edelman, CB Kyle Arrington, RB LeGarrette Blount inactive for Week 16.

Anthony CollinsDec 21 11:32a

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have declared OT Anthony Collins, FB Evan Rodriguez, CB Isaiah Frey, DL Lawrence Sidbury, RB Mike James, WR Robert Herron, WR Solomon Patton inactive for Week 16.

Kelvin BenjaminDec 21 11:22a

Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin won't face Cleveland Browns CB Joe Haden (shoulder) Sunday, Dec. 21, who is out with a shoulder injury.

Joe HadenDec 21 11:22a

Cleveland Browns CB Joe Haden (shoulder) is out Sunday, Dec. 21.

Julio JonesDec 21 11:22a

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (hip) is active Sunday, Dec. 21.

Jay CutlerDec 21 10:22a

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler is receiving trade interest from the Tennessee Titans. If the Titans landed him, it would alter the 2015 NFL Draft board dramatically.

T Y HiltonDec 21 10:22a

Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) is a long shot to play Sunday, Dec. 21. However, he's going to try to suit up.

DeMarco MurrayDec 21 10:12a

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Zach ErtzDec 20 07:42p

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Philip RiversDec 20 07:22p

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers (back) is active Saturday, Dec. 20, for Week 16.

Ryan MathewsDec 20 07:22p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (ankle) is inactive Saturday, Dec. 20, for Week 16.

Ryan MathewsDec 20 07:12p

The San Diego Chargers have declared LB Cordarro Law, DL Damion Square, CB Greg Ducre, WR Keenan Allen, P Mike Scifres, DL Ryan Carrethers, RB Ryan Mathews inactive for Week 16.

Carlos HydeDec 20 07:12p

San Francisco 49ers RB Carlos Hyde (ankle) is inactive Saturday, Dec. 20.

Ahmad BrooksDec 20 07:02p

The San Francisco 49ers have declared LB Ahmad Brooks, OG Andrew Tiller, RB Carlos Hyde, OG Joe Looney, QB Josh X. Johnson, WR Stevie Johnson, CB Tramaine Brock inactive for Week 16.

DeAndre HopkinsDec 20 06:42p

Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) will be a game-time decision Sunday, Dec. 21, after not practicing all week.

Julian EdelmanDec 20 06:02p

New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman (concussion) has been ruled out for Week 16. Edelman didn't receive final clearance from the concussion protocol to play Sunday, Dec. 21.

Dennis KellyDec 20 03:32p

The Philadelphia Eagles have declared OT Dennis Kelly, WR Jeff Maehl, S Jerome Couplin III, OG Julian Vandervelde, QB Nick Foles, DE Taylor Hart, LB Trent Cole inactive for Week 16.

DeMarco MurrayDec 20 03:22p

Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray (hand) reportedly plans on playing this week despite a broken bone in his hand.

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