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Falcons pay big price for comeback victory

Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson (39) runs with the ball for a touchdown with defense by St. Louis Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree (52) in the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. (USA TODAY Sports: Daniel Shirey)

Atlanta Falcons running back Steven Jackson (39) runs with the ball for a touchdown with defense by St. Louis Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree (52) in the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. (USA TODAY Sports: Daniel Shirey)

A bounce-back win for the Atlanta Falcons was marred by injuries Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

Quarterback Matt Ryan threw two touchdowns, and veteran offseason pickup Osi Umenyiora returned his first career interception for a touchdown in the Falcons’ 31-24 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Five Atlanta starters were injured and left the game in the first half, including running back Steven Jackson, who spent his first nine seasons in the NFL with the Rams. Jackson left the game with a thigh injury after catching a touchdown pass from Ryan on the Falcons’ opening drive. He did not return.

Starting corner Asante Samuel (thigh), defensive end Kroy Biermann (ankle), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot) and fullback Bradie Ewing (shoulder) also left the game in the first half and did not return for the Falcons.

Falcons coach Mike Smith did not address the specifics of the injuries after the game, saying they’ll release an injury report after Wednesday’s practice.

“It put a lot of guys out on the field that normally wouldn’t have as many snaps as they had,” Smith said. “It was compounded because a lot of those guys play on special teams. The next-man-up mentality is what the NFL is all about.”

The Rams were already down 21 points late in third quarter, before Sam Bradford and the offense were able to take advantage the depleted Atlanta defense.

With 1:30 left in third quarter, Bradford found rookie Tavon Austin in the front corner of the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 24-10.

The Rams (1-1) forced a three-and-out on Falcons’ next possession and had all the momentum after Bradford hooked up with Austin Pettis on a 3-yard touchdown to make it a seven-point game early in the fourth quarter.

But Ryan answered on the Falcons’ next possession, leading a nine-play, 80-yard drive. Jason Snelling capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run through the middle of the St. Louis defense for the clinching score.

Bradford and Austin connected on another touchdown pass with two minutes to play, but the Falcons were able to run out the clock on their final possession.

“When we needed to get a stop, we didn’t get it late in the game,” said Rams defensive end Chris Long. “We’ll be in a lot of games, if we play with that same determination.”