Final

Rams 27

(2-14, 1-7 away)

Falcons 31

(11-5, 7-1 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 28, 2008

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 

1 2 3 4 T
STL 7 7 3 1027
ATL 3 14 7 731

Top Performers

Passing: M. Bulger (STL) - 230 YDS, 1 TD

Rushing: M. Turner (ATL) - 25 CAR, 208 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: T. Holt (STL) - 6 REC, 90 YDS

Norwood scores two TDs as Falcons win

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Mike Smith had a simple question for his Atlanta Falcons as they looked ahead to the playoffs:

Fast Facts

• Jerious Norwood's 45-yard rushing touchdown with 3:41 left in the game sent the Falcons to the playoffs for the first time since 2004 (also 11-5).

• Atlanta finished 7-1 at home and finished the season winning three straight and five of its last six overall.

• Michael Turner rushed for 208 yards, his second 200-yard game of the season (Week 1 vs. Detroit -- 220). It's the 20th time in NFL history a player has rushed for 200 yards in a game at least twice in a season.

• The Rams finished with the most losses in their history (14) as they ended the year with a 10-game losing streak.

-- ESPN research

• Rapid Reaction

"Why not us?" Smith asked.

The Falcons, who held off the St. Louis Rams 31-27 on Sunday to clinch the No. 5 seed in the NFC, may believe anything is possible in the playoffs after their improbable regular season.

In his first year as coach, Smith and rookie quarterback Matt Ryan led the Falcons to an 11-5 record one season after a 4-12 finish.

"We came a long way," said Jerious Norwood, who ran for two touchdowns, including the go-ahead 45-yard run with 3:41 left. "Whoever would have thought we'd be in the playoffs?"

Atlanta's hopes of winning the NFC South and gaining a first-round bye ended with Carolina's 33-31 win at New Orleans.

The Falcons had hoped for a home game but instead will travel to NFC West champion Arizona for a wild-card game next week.

Michael Turner added 208 yards rushing with a touchdown to counter Steven Jackson's 30 carries for 161 yards and two touchdowns for St. Louis.

Soon after Norwood's go-ahead touchdown late in the game, the video board posted a score that showed New Orleans leading Carolina 31-30. Wins by the Falcons and Saints would have given Atlanta the division championship.

Some players thought the Falcons won the division as Carolina's late game-winning field goal was lost in the celebration of the win over the Rams.

"Until the game was over, I thought the Saints had won," said offensive tackle Todd Weiner. "It was a little bit of a letdown, but we're still in the playoffs and we have momentum going."

The Falcons will take their first three-game winning streak of the season to Arizona.

"It's not a letdown," Ryan said. "We're excited about having the opportunity to continue to play. As we've seen in the past, it doesn't matter where you're seeded in the playoffs. It's about having a chance and we're happy to have a chance."

Atlanta gave the Rams (2-14) their 10th straight loss.

"I thought we played about as well as we could play," Rams coach Jim Haslett said. "Our guys played their hearts out. We just didn't get it done. I was proud of the way we played. I think that the way that they played will define who they are next year."

Atlanta Falcons St. Louis Rams

NFL.com Video

Watch highlights from the Atlanta Falcons' 31-27 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Haslett replaced Scott Linehan after an 0-4 start. He said he didn't know whether he'll have an opportunity to return in 2009.

When asked whether he'll have an interview for the job, Haslett said, "I have no idea."

The Falcons overcame three turnovers, including two in the fourth quarter.

Turner fumbled into the end zone after a 70-yard run to spoil a scoring opportunity early in the final quarter.

Then, on Atlanta's next possession, Ryan's short pass for Roddy White was intercepted by cornerback Jonathan Wade at the Falcons 22.

Ryan's second interception of the game set up Josh Brown's 27-yard field goal, giving St. Louis a 27-24 lead with 6:39 remaining.

Atlanta answered Brown's field goal with Norwood's touchdown run from the St. Louis 45 with 3:41 left. Norwood ran for 56 yards and two touchdowns on three carries. He set up his 8-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter with his 92-yard kickoff return.

The Falcons had to hold on after Norwood's second score. The Rams moved quickly from their 10 to the Atlanta 29.

Atlanta's Chauncey Davis, a fill-in starter for Jamaal Anderson, sacked Marc Bulger on second down, and Bulger threw two incomplete passes to end the drive.

The Falcons didn't lose back-to-back games and have momentum for the team's first playoff game since the 2004 season.

Jackson had a 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to give the Rams a 7-3 lead. His touchdown run from the 2 early in the fourth quarter pulled the Rams even, 24-24.

Bulger's 39-yard pass to Torry Holt set up the touchdown run for Jackson, who surpassed 1,000 yards for the fourth straight season.

Atlanta answered with a 70-yard run by Turner, who lost the ball inside the St. Louis 5 when hit from behind by Rams cornerback Ron Bartell. Bartell recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback. The officials huddled and ruled Turner fumbled before he hit the ground.

Smith challenged the play, but the ruling stood after the video review.

Ryan was 10-for-21 for 160 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown. Bulger was 19-for-32 for 230 yards with a touchdown.

Game notes


Jackson is the first Rams running back since Eric Dickerson (1983-86) to rush for 1,000 yards in four straight seasons. … White had three catches for 48 yards, giving him a franchise-record 1,382 yards receiving for the season, passing Alfred Jenkins' 1,358 yards in 1981. … DE John Abraham did not play in the second half. Abraham, who was listed as questionable with thigh and shoulder injuries, said he was resting for the playoffs.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
STL
ATL
1st Downs2217
Passing 1st downs
117
Rushing 1st downs
119
1st downs from penalties
01
3rd down efficiency
5-152-10
4th down efficiency
1-30-0
Total Plays7254
Total Yards408417
Yards per play5.77.7
Total Drives1313
Passing206154
Comp-Att
19-3210-21
Yards per pass
5.97.0
Interceptions thrown
02
Sacks-Yards Lost
3-241-6
Rushing202263
Rushing Attempts
3732
Yards per rush
5.58.2
Red Zone (Made-Att)3-53-3
Penalties3-143-14
Turnovers03
Fumbles lost
01
Interceptions thrown
02
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession35:1324:47

Passing Leaders

STLC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Bulger19/322307.2103-24
ATLC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Ryan10/211607.6121-6

Rushing Leaders

STLCARYDSAVGTDLG
Jackson301615.4236
Darby3206.708
ATLCARYDSAVGTDLG
Turner252088.3170
Norwood35618.7245

Receiving Leaders

STLRECYDSAVGTDLG
Holt69015.0033
Jackson45413.5036
ATLRECYDSAVGTDLG
Jenkins47218.0041
White34816.0122

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERSTLATL
atlFG10:07Jason Elam 39 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 55 yds, 2:52
03
stlTD6:24Steven Jackson 4 Yard Run (Josh Brown Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 81 yds, 3:44
73
SECOND QUARTERSTLATL
atlTD4:49Michael Turner 9 Yard Run (Jason Elam Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 55 yds, 2:28
710
stlTD0:38Donnie Avery 16 Yard Pass From Marc Bulger (Josh Brown Kick is Good)
Drive info: 11 plays, 81 yds, 4:11
1410
atlTD0:16Jerious Norwood 8 Yard Run (Jason Elam Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 8 yds, 0:21
1417
THIRD QUARTERSTLATL
atlTD12:25Roddy White 18 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Jason Elam Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 75 yds, 2:40
1424
stlFG1:43Josh Brown 31 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 8 plays, 57 yds, 4:39
1724
FOURTH QUARTERSTLATL
stlTD13:23Steven Jackson 2 Yard Run (Josh Brown Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 62 yds, 2:51
2424
stlFG6:42Josh Brown 27 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 6 plays, 13 yds, 3:16
2724
atlTD3:50Jerious Norwood 45 Yard Run (Jason Elam Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 80 yds, 2:58
2731