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THOUSAND OAKS Vincent Rey Jersey , Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams are trying to get to where the Atlanta Falcons were last season — the Super Bowl.
That’s a lofty goal for the NFL’s youngest team. But Los Angeles (11-5) can take its first step in that direction when hosting the Falcons (10-6) in an NFC wild-card game Saturday night.
In the Rams’ second year in their return to L.A., they will host a playoff game at the storied Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the first time since the 1978 season.
Atlanta returns to the playoffs after last season’s painful loss in Super Bowl LI. The Falcons led the New England Patriots by 25 points before succumbing, 34-28 in overtime.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn isn’t expecting that meltdown to haunt his squad.
“I love the resiliency and the toughness of this team,” Quinn said. “When you’ve been through some of the fire together, you come out the other side stronger as a brotherhood.”
The Rams have done little wrong under rookie head coach Sean McVay. At 31, McVay is the league’s youngest coach and is directing its most prolific offense.
Behind a unit averaging nearly 30 points per game, McVay helped flip a team that went 4-12 last season to NFC West champions and back in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Quarterback Jared Goff has gone from bust to being accurate and efficient. Running back Todd Gurley churned out a league-best 2,093 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns.
With wide receivers Sammy Watkins, Roberts Woods and rookie Cooper Kupp, there’s no shortage of targets for Goff to aim his passes.
But the Falcons have a core of players and the motivation from that painful Super Bowl lesson tucked away. They are older and maybe wiser, but the No. 3-seeded Rams, aren’t fretting over their lack of postseason reps.
“I don’t think it is a concern,” McVay said. “When I say that, I have a whole lot of respect for experience and what that does and the value that it provides. But I do think that we’ve got a confident group Authentic Albert Wilson Jersey , a mature group for a young football team.”
How Goff responds to the oversized setting is among the red flags the team’s detractors mention. But after going 0-7 in his rookie year, Goff has thrown for 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions this year in leading a balanced attack. He seems at-ease with the task at hand.
“I think more than anything it’s a big game,” Goff said. “I think that’s what it boils down to and we do have experience with that stuff.
“We played a big game in Seattle a couple weeks ago. We played a big game two weeks ago against Tennessee. We played a big game against the Eagles … we had a bunch of big games against top teams this year and so I think that experience will translate mostly to this game.”
Quinn is familiar with Goff’s offensive coordinator, Matt LaFleur. He held that same position with the Falcons last year.
“What I have been most impressed by is you have to defend the entire field,” Quinn said of LaFleur’s approach. “When you have a team that has the run, has the play-action, the quarterback-boot and stuff, it makes it real difficult and challenging to defend.”
The sixth-seeded Falcons will lean on savvy quarterback Matt Ryan (20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) and a deep running attack spearheaded by Devonta Freeman (865 yards, seven touchdowns).
Although Julio Jones has had an inconsistent season, he remains dangerous with 1,444 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
While McVay is the youthful vibe of offense, it’ll be the sage Wade Phillips, the Rams’ 70-year-old defensive coordinator doing his best to stop the Falcons.
All of this will be played out in the historic L.A. Coliseum venue with an expected 70 Authentic Daniel Kilgore Jersey ,000 on hand to toast the Rams return to the playoffs in L.A. The Rams left Los Angeles and relocated to St. Louis after the 1994 season, an absence that lasted until 2016.
“It’s definitely a cool thing,” Goff said. “After football has been gone here for so long and we came back year two and being able to bring a playoff game to the Coliseum is very cool.”
An uncluttered mind has helped Sean Manaea sharpen his pitching arsenal.
The Oakland A’s left-hander has delivered three consecutive quality starts following a rough patch in May. Manaea allowed four or more earned runs in five of his six May starts but has held opponents to a combined eight runs in his last four outings.
Manaea will start for the A’s on Wednesday in the third contest of a four-game series in Detroit.
“I was trying to be too perfect and it was causing me to overthink things,” he said. “Now, I’m trying to keep things simple.”
With his mind no longer racing, his control has been nearly impeccable. He’s walked one batter in his last three starts while collecting 17 strikeouts.
He’s gone more often with his four-seam fastball, throwing it 58 percent of the time this month compared to 50 percent in May.
“It’s having fastball command and having confidence in my other pitches and just pitching off the fastball,” he said. “If you have confidence in yourself and really trust your stuff, things are going to be good.”
Manaea (7-6, 3.40 ERA) held the Chicago White Sox to one run on five hits in seven innings during his last start. He lost his only career start against Detroit while giving up three runs in six innings.
He’ll be opposed by right-hander Mike Fiers (5-4, 4.29 ERA), who has not reached the six-inning mark in six of his last seven outings. He gave up four runs in five innings at Cleveland on Friday.
Home runs have been an issue for Fiers, who has allowed 16 this season and at least one in 10 of his last 11 starts. The A’s have homered in 27 consecutive road games, a major league record.
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire would like see Fiers and many of his other starters get deeper into games.
“With Zimm (Jordan Zimmermann) it’s different because he’s coming off an injury and you want to keep him healthy Authentic Josh Sitton Jersey ,” Gardenhire said. “A lot of the other guys, it’s kind of a feel. I’m not afraid to have a guy throw 100 pitches and seven innings at all. But if they start misfiring, what good does that do if you have fresh arms out there? The problem is we’ve had too many five-inning starts.”
Detroit has lost seven straight, including two crushing defeats in the first two games of the series. Oakland rallied from a late three-run deficit Monday, then dug itself out of a 6-0 hole in Tuesday’s 9-7 victory.
Jed Lowrie, who hit the game-winning homer in the ninth in the opener, put the A’s in front in the final inning on an RBI single.
An error by Tigers first baseman John Hicks led to a three-run inning which started the A’s comeback.
“You make mistakes every once in a while but I don’t think we’re finding ways to lose,” Gardenhire said. “The other team’s playing good. Sure, we made mistakes but we jumped on them early. We scored runs and that’s a good team over there that doesn’t quit. They’re grinders over there. They got into our bullpen again and there you have it. It’s the same story.”
By winning eight of its last 10, Oakland is now four games over .500 for the first time since 2014