Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur knows the Falcons well.
He was the team's quarterbacks coach from 2015-2016, helping propel signal-caller Matt Ryan to his 2016 MVP season during which he completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions — good for a league-leading 117.1 passer rating.
And while LaFleur went through the highs and lows of last year's Super Bowl run with Atlanta, he said he's tried not to put too much thought into facing his former employer this weekend.
"We know it's going to be a great challenge," LaFleur said Thursday. "I think when Saturday arrives and I start to see a lot of those guys, then it'll kind of hit you a little bit. But to be honest with you, our preparation is just like any other week."
Because he's someone who knows the Falcons' offensive personnel as well as anybody, LaFleur said he feels like there's a lot of similarities between the two teams in terms of their skill positions.
"I feel like both of us have two of the more elite groups in this league," LaFleur said. "There's going to be a lot of explosive weaponry on the offensive side of the ball that is for sure going into this game."
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and head coach Sean McVay acknowledged they've LaFleur can be a resource this week, but have been judicious about the way they've tried to implement that information.
"Some of the nuances in what they're doing are similar, but [Ryan] was a great player last year and he's continued that," Phillips said. "So, it doesn't influence how we play in certain coverages – it's how well we cover. I don't know that you gain a whole lot. Overall, we get a concept, but other than that I don't think you gain a great deal."
"I think you look at what a great coach Matt is and the experience that he had, it is very helpful. I think at the same time too you look at the tape and you want the guys especially defensively to be able to react. I think you can sometimes maybe give too much information and slow guys down," McVay said. "I certainly think you look at Matt LaFleur and where he's been. It seems like successful quarterback play kind of follows him. Matt's [Ryan's] a great quarterback, but I think Matt LaFleur's a great coach. We're fortunate that he's here and I think he's done a great job with our guys and certainly his time in Atlanta — they had a lot of success as well."
And LaFleur noted that he's not trying to overload any of his coworkers with information.
"They study the film. They know what Atlanta's going to do," LaFleur said. "I feel like there's a happy medium, because you don't want to just tell them everything. I don't think you get much out of that. Sure there are some things that they've asked me about in terms of some of the scheme. I can't really get into those specific questions that I'll share with them. But I just kind of leave them alone. If they have a question, I'm here for them and I'll try to do the best I can, but it's not like I'm sitting there studying their tape."
Earlier this week, Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn said he's able to see LaFleur's imprint and influence on the Rams' offense. A lot of that likely has to do with the fact that both McVay and LaFleur worked together in Washington under former Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
"It's really a good scheme. It's the three-level routes that can happen," Quinn said. "What I've been most impressed by is the ability that you have to defend the entire field. And then like our offense, they're a team that's really committed to the run game. When you have a team that has the run, has the play-action, the quarterback boot and stuff — it makes it really difficult and challenging to defend. I've been impressed and I've definitely seen Matt's influence along with Sean's on there. Both guys are really sharp, really equipped."
LaFleur mentioned several times how much respect he has for the Atlanta coaching staff and those he worked with there. He'll certainly visit with them pregame, but then it's back to business.
"That's always a tough question right there, because it kind of happened similar to last week with San Francisco when I got my brother and a lot of my close friends are on that staff," LaFleur said. "So you try to get the meet and greet out of the way early and then go back into the locker room and just get your mind right for the game. There's always time for that stuff post game — there really is.
"Then, you always get to reconnect with those guys at the combine, or maybe you get together in the postseason," LaFleur continued. "Try not to ever distract from what you're there to do and ultimately, we're all there to win a football game."