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Anderson, Falcons Run Over Rams

The battle of the geriatric backups went to Steve DeBerg, but it was Jamal Anderson who put the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs.

The 44-year-old DeBerg, who came on in the second half after Tony Graziani produced just three points in the first half in relief of the injured Chris Chandler, threw the go-ahead touchdown pass, a 29-yarder to Terance Mathis as the Falcons held on to first place in the NFC with a 21-10 win over the Rams Sunday.

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Game summary

Week 13:

  • Top performers
  • Injury box

    Forum: Are the Falcons legitimate Super Bowl contenders?

  • But Anderson did the heavy work, a career-best 188 yards on 31 carries as the Falcons (10-2) clinched a playoff berth earlier than ever before.

    "Obviously, they like to run against our defense," Rams coach Dick Vermeil said. "But if you put your defense on the field as consistently as we did, it wears them down."

    "That big back wears them down."

    The Rams had quarterback problems too, with 36-year-old Steve Bono replacing Tony Banks in the second half after Banks, who started with a sprained ankle, was ineffective.

    Though he was only 5-for-12 for 75 yards, DeBerg was an improvement over Graziani, 8-for-18 for 102 yards and an interception in the first half when Atlanta held a 3-0 lead.

    "I feel better than any 44-year old in the whole world," DeBerg said.

    Banks shook off an ankle injury to start his 41st consecutive game, but was booed heavily and left ithe third quarter 10-for-21 for 95 yards.

    "I feel like a failure," Banks said. "But it happens to the best of them. We'll see how I bounce back from here."

    Bono was 6-for-13 for 54 yards, he had little time to throw behind a porous offensive line.

    Atlanta had an easier time against the Rams (3-9) in Atlanta Nov. 1, a 37-15 blowout that began their current five-game winning streak.

    "People said winning without Chris was one of those hurdles that we had to cross," coach Dan Reeves said. "I thought Tony did a decent job, but I just felt like Steve would give us a little of the experience we needed."

    Amp Lee
    With the offense sputtering, Atlanta's defense picked up the slack early with Keith Brooking stripping St. Louis' Amp Lee in the first quarter. (AP)

    In this game, Anderson began the game with a 25-yard carry to help set up a Morten Andersen field goal and sewed it up when he rambled 27 yards for a TD up the middle with 3:13 to go.

    The Falcons had a 3-0 halftime lead when Tony Horne of the Rams opened the second half with a 102-yard kickoff return.

    But another Andersen field goal and DeBerg's pass to Mathis and a two-point conversion made it 14-7 and Anderson's 27-yard run put things away. Their only offensive points came on a 39-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins that cut the gap to 14-10 early in the fourth quarter.

    The game drew a crowd of 47,971, the lowest since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995. The team purchased the remaining tickets to their final three home games to assure their streak of all sellouts would not end, but there were nearly 17,000 no-shows as the Rams lost for the 11th time in 12 games at the Trans World Dome.


    The Falcons' winning streak matches a five-game streak late last season under Reeves.
  • Keith Lyle, who intercepted 17 passes the past two seasons, including a league-leading nine in 1996, leads the Rams with three after his first-half pickoff against Graziani.
  • The Rams' Jeff Wilkins had the distance on a 61-yard field goal attempt to end the half, but was wide left.
  • Horne's 102-yard kickoff return was the Rams' first for a score since Gaston Green on Oct. 29, 1990. He had a 66-yarder with 2:57 to go.
  • The Falcons entered the game third in the league on kickoff return coverage.
  • New York Yankees second baseman Homer Bush , who is from East St. Louis, Ill., attended the game.
  • The Falcons have at least one sack in 18 consecutive games and 39 of 40.

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