ST. LOUIS — Not too many big plays for the Atlanta Falcons. An avalanche of little plays did the trick.
Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes and directed an offense so dominant that three St. Louis Rams defenders left with cramps in a 34-17 victory Sunday. All those chip-shot field goals added up, too.
“We’d like to score more touchdowns,” Ryan said. “All in all, three points is good offensively.”
Sam Bradford had a pair of touchdown passes for the Rams and set an NFL rookie record with 169 consecutive passes without an interception. The streak ended when William Moore picked off a shovel pass at the 2 with 3:24 to go, snuffing a drive that could have made it a one-score game.
“I wish it would have gone 98 (yards),” Moore said. “But overall it was just a huge play.”
Moore returned the ball only 12 yards. Still, it was the clincher as the Falcons (8-2) won their fourth in a row and ended the Rams’ four-game home winning streak.
“I’ve got to make sure it’s there,” Bradford said. “I can’t pitch it in there blind.”
Bradford had a big start with 99 yards passing and a touchdown in the first quarter. The Rams (4-6) had six first downs in the first quarter, but only nine the rest of the way, and Bradford finished 27 for 42 for 233 yards.
“We knew time of possession was going to be a big part of this game,” Bradford said. “We knew if we wanted a chance to win we had to be on the field just as much as they were, and that wasn’t the case.”
Ryan was 26 of 39 for 253 yards with touchdown passes to Brian Finneran and Justin Peelle, and Roddy White set up scores with nine catches for 83 yards. Ryan has five touchdown passes without an interception the last two games and threw for gains of 10 yards or better to seven receivers.
“We’ve been efficient offensively the past four or five weeks,” Ryan said. “Going forward, that’s kind of a recipe for success. You become difficult to beat.”
The St. Louis defense forced three short field goals, but couldn’t get off the field quickly enough against an Atlanta offense that had a pair of drives that lasted 6:39 and 7:06 and held the ball for nearly 36 minutes. The Rams were so gassed that safety Oshiomoghe Atogwe and cornerbacks Ron Bartell and Justin King all missed time with cramps.
Atlanta ran 70 plays, most of it in the no-huddle. St. Louis ran 54 plays.
“When you’re out there and trying to cover, it catches up to you,” Bartell said. “We have to do a better job, obviously, as far as making sure we hydrate properly before the game.”
Michael Turner was untouched on a 39-yard run the first play after the two-minute warning and White caught a 2-point conversion pass. Turner had 131 yards on 28 carries for his fourth 100-yard game.
The Rams allowed no more than 17 points their first five home games.
St. Louis led 10-3 early in the second quarter after Josh Brown hit a season-best 53-yard field goal, and again at 17-16 early in the third after Bradford and Brandon Gibson hooked up on a 13-yard fade pattern.
The interception was the first in five games for Bradford, the No. 1 pick, who thrived despite a set of undistinguished pass catchers.
Bradford showed off his strong arm on his first touchdown pass, rolling out to the right and throwing against the grain on a 25-yard completion to rookie tight end Mike Hoomanawanui.
Eric Weems had a 55-yard kickoff return in the second quarter before a helmet-less Jerome Murphy finally ran him down at the Rams 47, setting up the Finneran score.