Preparation and execution will be paramount in Los Angeles come Saturday night.
Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is trying to impress upon the unit that ending drives with seven points, instead of three or worst yet nothing, will be vital against Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
Head coach Sean McVay’s garnered much of the acclaim for turning around the Rams franchise. However, the veteran assistant Phillips deserves some praise too.
The Falcons (10-6) play at the Rams (11-5) in Los Angeles in a Wild Card playoff game this weekend.
The Rams are allowing four less points per game on defense than a season ago. In addition, the Rams vaulted from tied for 23rd in takeaways to No. 5 in Phillips’ first year directing the unit.
Phillips, 70, is recognized as one of the best defensive-minded coaches in the NFL. He’s been involved in the NFL for 39 seasons, 35 as a defensive coordinator or head coach. Sarkisian, with 17 years coaching experience and second in the NFL after a stint as quarterbacks coach with the Raiders in 2004, knows Phillips’ vast experience is going to present a challenge in the playoff game.
“Coach Phillips has a great deal of experience. He’s seen it all,” Sarkisian said Wednesday. “There is not something Saturday night we’re gonna present to him that he has not seen before. But the reality of it is he allows his players to play. He puts them in position, he trusts their preparation and allows them to go play. He trusts them in coverage, with their man-coverage stuff [and] he trusts them in their pass-rush situations.
“I have a great deal of respect for him. He’s done it at a high level for a longtime.”
The Falcons should be able to move the ball versus the Rams, statistically. The Rams rank 19th in the NFL in total defense. Although, the Rams’ defense does get stingy in the red zone.
The Falcons’ touchdown success rate, instead of kicking five second-half field goals as they did the a playoff-clinching, regular-season finale win over the Panthers last week, is going to be undeniably important.