Gerald Riggs ran for three touchdowns and took over the NFL rushing lead as the Atlanta Falcons defeated the mistake-prone Los Angeles Rams, 30-14, in a National Football League game today.
Riggs entered the game as the NFC's leading rusher, and his 123 yards lifted him past AFC leader Freeman McNeil of the New York Jets.
Riggs has 1,138 yards for the season, and McNeil has 1,093.
The Falcons converted two of the Rams' five turnovers into 10 quick points within a 65-second span of the opening quarter.
They built a 23-0 lead after three before the Rams finally came to life in the fourth quarter.
"We got in big trouble right off the bat, and once Atlanta got the lead, it was hard for us to get back into the game," Rams Coach John Robinson said. "The trick in this league is to come prepared every week."
Mick Luckhurst kicked a 39-yard field goal 4:58 into the opening period after Scott Case had returned a fumble recovery 17 yards to the Los Angeles 24.
Charles White then fumbled the kickoff, and Johnny Taylor claimed it for Atlanta on the 17. The Falcons took three plays to score again, with Riggs going over from the three for a 10-0 lead after 6:03 had elapsed.
Riggs, who carried the ball 41 times, completed a 14-play, 59-yard drive with a one-yard plunge in the second quarter, and the Falcons stretched their lead to 20-0 at halftime on Luckhurst's 27-yard field goal.
It was only the third victory in the last 21 regular-season games for the Falcons (2-9). The NFC West-leading Rams (8-3) lost for the third time in four weeks.
Luckhurst added a 38-yard field goal for a 23-0 lead in the final four minutes of the third quarter, ending a 49-yard drive on which David Archer completed three of five passes for 54 yards. Riggs closed out the Falcons' scoring with a one-yard run with 1:51 left in the game.
For the Rams, Eric Dickerson scored from the one early in the fourth quarter, one play after Tiger Greene was charged with a 28-yard pass-interference penalty in the end zone. Dickerson was limited to 41 yard rushing in the game.
Henry Ellard's 32-yard punt return to the Atlanta 43 set up a score for the Rams less than three minutes later -- a pass from Dieter Brock to Ron Brown, who made the reception at the Atlanta 32.
The Falcons lost all-pro tackle Mike Kenn for the rest of the season after he suffered ligament damage in his right knee early in the game.
Atlanta punter Rick Donnelly left early with a sprained knee.
Los Angeles stopped the Falcons on three incomplete passes from the 15 with over nine minutes remaining.
But Mark Jerue drew a penalty for running into the kicker.
It gave the Falcons a first down at their 20, and they maintained possession for almost nine minutes on a drive that ended on Riggs' third touchdown of the day.