THOUSAND OAKS — The Rams don’t have the edge in experience, but they should have more energy.
While the Atlanta Falcons battled into the fourth quarter on Sunday to beat Carolina and clinch a wild-card spot, the Rams enjoyed a leisurely afternoon and sat most of their starters against San Francisco.
So now it’s rest vs. rings when the Rams host the Falcons on Saturday night at the Coliseum in the first round of the playoffs. Only four players on the Rams’ active roster have played in the postseason, while most of the Falcons are 11 months removed from an NFC championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.
“We are a youthful team, but I think we’ve demonstrated good maturity throughout the course of the year,” Rams coach Sean McVay said during his regular Monday news conference at Cal Lutheran.
McVay cited the Rams’ tough schedule, which included the most miles traveled in the NFL this season, and the fact that the Rams never lost consecutive games in 2017. They also were the youngest team in the league, in terms of average player age, and managed to go 11-5 and win the NFC West.
Few of the Rams have ever been through this, though. Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth appeared in six playoff games with Cincinnati over the last decade, while linebacker Connor Barwin played five and offensive lineman John Sullivan played four.
No other Rams starter has played a snap in the postseason. Reserve running back Lance Dunbar played three games and offensive lineman Cornelius Lucas played two, but Lucas likely won’t play this week. Rams cornerback Kayvon Webster won the Super Bowl with Denver two years ago, but Webster is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
The Falcons’ challenge is different, but no less light. Their bye week was in early October, and they had to play well down the stretch simply to make the playoffs as the NFC’s final wild-card team. Now, with the game on Saturday night, the Falcons will have to play on a short week and make a cross-country flight.
Still, they know the drill. Most of the Falcons’ core was a part of last season’s conference-championship team, and quarterback Matt Ryan is in the playoffs for a sixth time in his 10th NFL season. The Falcons’ defense also is strong and allowed an average of only 19.7 points per game this season.
“We’re playing a football game against an excellent team this week,” McVay said. “We know the stakes are a little higher, because if you win, you continue playing…