Falcons push toward postseason with 42-14 rout of Rams

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff passes against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

LOS ANGELES (AP) Vic Beasley sacked Jared Goff, stripped the ball, scooped it up and sprinted to the end zone in a remarkable athletic display for the Atlanta Falcons.

Beasley then tried and miserably failed to dunk the ball over the crossbar in a considerably less impressive effort.

None of it slowed down the Atlanta Falcons in their 42-14 victory over spiraling Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

”I was going for the dunk, but my legs didn’t go up as much as I wanted them to,” Beasley laughed after the aborted attempt that made his teammates think he had injured himself. ”So that was a failure on my side, but I got into the end zone, and that’s a positive thing.”

The Falcons had few negatives from their trip to the West Coast. They haven’t made the playoffs or won the NFC South since 2012, but they took major steps toward both goals while compounding the misery of the Rams, whose modest dreams of a winning season are dead again.

Matt Ryan passed for 237 yards and three touchdowns and Atlanta forced five turnovers in the Falcons’ fourth win in six games. Tevin Coleman caught a TD pass and rushed for another score for the Falcons (8-5), who opened up a 42-point lead in the third quarter even without Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, their top two receivers.

”This is the kind of game where it shows you that all the hard work you’ve been putting in is paying off,” said Beasley, who had three sacks. ”It’s definitely a great feeling, especially for a defense that’s been giving up a lot of points. To go out there and dominate them just shows what we can be as a defense.”

Deion Jones also returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown during Atlanta’s comprehensive pummeling of the Rams (4-9). The Falcons easily stayed atop the division alongside Tampa Bay with its fourth win in six games.

The Rams have lost four straight and eight of nine in their increasingly miserable homecoming season. Embattled coach Jeff Fisher tied Dan Reeves’ NFL record with his 165th career coaching loss.

”It’s offense,” Fisher said after the Rams put up 312 yards and didn’t score until the fourth quarter. ”We’re not moving the ball consistently. We’re not converting on third downs, and we’re not scoring points. It’s the problem.”

Todd Gurley rushed for 61 yards and eventually scored the Rams’ first points in one of the team’s ugliest performances of their 10th consecutive losing season.

”It looked like a middle school offense out there,” Gurley said.

Goff went 24 of 41 for 235 yards with two interceptions and a fumble. The No. 1 overall draft pick fell to 0-4 as a starter with a trip to Seattle looming Thursday.

”If there was ever a game to put behind you quickly, it’s this one,” said Goff, who scored his first NFL rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. ”We’re not having fun. We’re not enjoying this. It’s awful.”

GOOD START

Atlanta had good vibes from the opening kickoff, which was fumbled by Rams rookie Michael Thomas and recovered by the Falcons at the 3. Justin Hardy immediately caught a TD pass 10 seconds in on the Falcons’ first snap.

HOME WOES

Fisher was booed heavily in the Coliseum, where the Rams haven’t won since their home opener Sept. 18. The Rams have scored only five touchdowns in five games at the Coliseum – one fewer than the Falcons managed on Sunday.

BREAKING IT OPEN

Coleman scored on a short screen pass on Atlanta’s first snap of the second quarter. The rout began moments later when Jones made an exceptional leaping interception and returned it down the Atlanta sideline for a score. Ryan hit a wide-open Taylor Gabriel for a 64-yard TD pass on the Falcons’ opening drive of the second half.

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