Matt LaFleur knows the Falcons well after spending the previous two seasons as quarterbacks coach in Atlanta before joining the Los Angeles Rams.
But the first-year offensive coordinator can only do so much to help the Rams’ defensive staff ahead of their playoff game against the Falcons on Saturday night. LaFleur has been available to the defensive coaching staff this week Joel Edmundson Jersey , but doesn’t believe he can offer much that cannot be gleaned from the usual film study.
”Sure, there are some things that they ask me about in terms of some of the scheme – I can’t really get into those specific questions – that I’ll share with them, but I kind of leave them alone,” LaFleur said Thursday. ”If they have a question, I’m here for them and I’ll try to do the best I can, but it’s not like I’m sitting there studying their tape.”
Instead, LaFleur’s knowledge of Atlanta’s personnel and scheme have him focused on trying to make sure the Rams (11-5) can match the Falcons (10-6) score for score if it comes to that.
Atlanta averaged 22.1 points per game, down 12 points from last season when they led the NFL in scoring and won the NFC title before losing the Super Bowl to New England in crushing fashion. However, the Falcons are a perfect 10-0 this season when scoring at least 20 points.
The Rams went from last in scoring last season to averaging a league-leading 29.9 points per game while winning their first NFC West title since 2003.
LaFleur sees similarities between the two teams in terms of the quality of the overall offensive personnel.
Both achieve balance between the run and pass.
The Rams ride running back Todd Gurley, while the Falcons share the load on the ground between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Julio Jones had 35 percent of Atlanta’s receiving yards, compared to a Los Angeles passing offense with its top four options all averaging between 39.5 and 65.1 yards receiving per game.
”I feel both of us have two of the more elite groups in this league, so there’s going to be a lot of explosive weaponry on the offensive side of the ball, that’s for sure,” LaFleur said.
The biggest contrast comes in the experience level of the two quarterbacks, LaFleur said. Jared Goff will be making his first postseason start and 23rd overall for the Rams. Falcons stalwart Matt Ryan has 164 career starts between the regular season and playoffs.
Despite working with Goff and Ryan at different points in their careers, LaFleur sees a similar resolve in each.
”Both of them have battled through adversity,” LaFleur said. ”You look at Matt in 2015 Kyle Brodziak Jersey , some might say he struggled. And then he rebounds and he’s the league MVP. Same goes for Jared. I know his rookie year didn’t go as well for him. And then you look at him this year. I think he has handled himself and has shown improvement on a weekly basis. The mindset, the mentality that those guys have is very similar.”
LaFleur has tried not to think about the friendships and professional relationships he built with the Falcons in 2015-16, but expects that might change once he gets to the Coliseum. He already went through that experience in the regular-season finale against San Francisco, where his brother Mike LaFleur is the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Matt LaFleur also got to catch up with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator when he was in Atlanta.
”You try to get the meet-and-greet out of the way early and then go back into the locker room and just kind of get your mind right for the game,” LaFleur said. ”There’s always time for that stuff postgame. Ultimately, we’re all there to win a football game.”
NOTES: LB Mark Barron (Achilles) practiced in full Thursday and is expected to start after missing the final two regular-season games. . Pro Bowl return specialist Pharoh Cooper (shoulder) practiced after not participating Tuesday and Wednesday.
On a night the slumping Giants broke out of their offensive funk and ended a four-game losing streak, second baseman Joe Panik was forced out with a groin strain and is likely headed to the disabled list.
Such is life for manager Bruce Bochy and his beleaguered ballclub this season.
Andrew McCutchen hit an RBI single to drive in Hunter Pence from second base in the seventh inning and the Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 on Friday night.
But San Francisco’s win was tempered by the loss of Panik, who was injured while running from first to third on Gorkys Hernandez’s double in the fourth.
”Bad break there,” Bochy said. ”We are going to get an MRI tomorrow, but it looks like he’s headed to the DL. It’s hard to say how long. He did a pretty good job on it.”
Panik, a Gold Glove winner in 2016, missed 31 games this season with a sprained left thumb. His latest injury had Bochy and his staff scrambling to make roster moves after the game. Rookie Alen Hanson is the likely replacement until Panik returns.
”It’s a DL situation, so we’ll huddle up here and talk about what move we’re going to make,” Bochy said.
Pence reached on a pinch-hit single off John Brebbia (1-2) leading off the seventh. After Hanson sacrificed Pence to second and Posey was intentionally walked, McCutchen pushed a 2-2 pitch into left field to drive in the go-ahead run.
Pablo Sandoval homered, Buster Posey singled twice and Brandon Crawford scored on a wild pitch to help the Giants’ slumping offense break out.
Reyes Moronta (5-1) retired one batter to earn the win. Will Smith pitched the ninth for his third save.
Kolton Wong had two hits and two RBIs for the Cardinals.
St. Louis was limited to five hits after setting a season-high with 18 on Friday.
”There’s going to be some nights when they’re going to shut you down Scottie Upshall Jersey ,” manager Mike Matheny said. ”You have to figure out how to manufacture. You’re not going to be able to score 11 every night.”
It was a back-and-forth game most of the night. After Wong’s RBI double in the second gave the Cardinals an early lead, the Giants tied it in the bottom of the inning without a hit. Crawford and Sandoval walked. Crawford took third on a flyout and scored on a wild pitch.
Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez pitched effectively into the sixth inning, but wasn’t even the most popular member of his family at the ballpark. His father, Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez, sat near San Francisco’s dugout and received a huge ovation from the crowd as highlights of the former catcher’s career played on the giant scoreboard in center field.
”I didn’t even notice until they told me,” the younger Rodriguez said of the videos of his father.
Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong was activated from the disabled list after missing 45 games with a fracture in his left hand. DeJong had not missed a game this season before getting hurt.
”I was kind of anxious before the game just to get out there and start playing because I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while,” said DeJong, who went 1 for 3 with two runs scored.
Cardinals: To make room for DeJong, LHP Austin Gomber was optioned to Triple-A Memphis.
Giants: 3B Evan Longoria could begin swinging off a tee and taking grounders by the end of the weekend, less than three weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand. Longoria is on pace to rejoin the team in the first week of August.
Cardinals RHP Carlos Martinez (5-4, 3.20 ERA) goes for his third consecutive win Saturday. Martinez pitched two-hit ball over nine innings, but left with a no-decision the last time he faced the Giants on May 20, 2017. RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 6.56) will come off the disabled list to pitch for San Francisco in his first start since May 29.