Experience be damned: Rams believe they're seasoned enough

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Among the 12 teams that have moved on, the Los Angeles Rams are by far the most inexperienced in the playoff environment that awaits them. Some consider that a notable disadvantage, but not Jared Goff.

"More than anything, it's a big game," Goff said. "I think that's what it boils down to, and I think we do have experience in that stuff."

Goff mentioned road games against the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans, and home games against the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints, all of which took place within the final seven weeks of the Rams' 11-5 regular season.

"We've had a bunch of big games against top teams this year," Goff said. "I think that experience will translate mostly to this game."

The Rams host the Atlanta Falcons, the reigning NFC champs, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, with kickoff set for 5:15 p.m. PT on NBC. The Falcons (10-6) have 36 players on their active roster that have combined to play in 143 playoff games, according to research from the Elias Sports Bureau. The Rams have six players combining for 21 games -- 296 fewer than the New England Patriots.

The Rams' quarterback, Goff, is 23 years old.

Their head coach, Sean McVay, is 31.

"There's a lot of value in experience," McVay said. "You try to learn from the experiences that you do have and not try to repeat the same mistakes twice."

But McVay doesn't necessarily believe his team lacks that experience. He actually thinks his group is battle-tested. He brought up how the Rams traveled more miles than anybody in the NFL. How they followed every loss with a win, sometimes emphatically. And how they faced a daunting schedule through the second half, yet still finished with the sport's third-highest point differential.

"For a younger team," McVay said, "we've demonstrated a maturity."

The Rams sprinkled some experience to their roster over the offseason but still entered as the NFL's second-youngest team. Three of their starters -- left tackle Andrew Whitworth, outside linebacker Connor Barwin and center John Sullivan -- have been to the playoffs. The other three with playoff experience -- running back Lance Dunbar, tackle Cornelius Lucas and tight end Derek Carrier -- are reserves who probably won't factor into Saturday's outcome.

Whitworth, 36, has been to the playoffs six times with the Cincinnati Bengals, but lost each game.

"I'm 0-fer," Whitworth said, "so I don't have much experience for winning. I don't know if that really gives me value."

But Whitworth doesn't believe the Rams need it. He agreed with Goff's theory that the important regular-season games were enough, drawing on his own experiences.

"Truth is, the big games throughout the season are what prepared us for the opportunity to go to the playoffs," Whitworth said. "Some of those years we were beat up, some of those years we lost games in the last second. It's not that we didn't play well or perform well; we just got beat. I think it's hard to win in the playoffs. Everybody's good. But those big games throughout the year, those big tests, prepare you."

The Rams won in Dallas and in Jacksonville early in the season. They traveled all the way to London and smoked the Arizona Cardinals by a 33-0 score. They faced a red-hot Vikings team at U.S. Bank Stadium, probably the NFL's loudest venue, and were tied 7-7 entering the fourth quarter. They played a home game with more than half their building cheering for the first-place Eagles and led with four minutes remaining. They traveled to Seattle and handed the Seahawks their worst home loss in 20 years, then traveled to Tennessee to face a desperate Titans team and clinched the division.

Playoff experience?

"We would like to have more," Rams outside linebacker Robert Quinn said, "but we have a lot of football experience."

"Honestly, I think that that's really not an excuse for us," Whitworth added. "I think we just need to go out and execute and play well."