By Shawn Lealos
The Atlanta Falcons came into this week facing the only team left on their schedule with a winning record and hoped to prove they were ready to take their spot at the top of the NFL. After a strong game, the Falcons fell apart at the end and mistakes caused them to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs, 29-28, in one of the most improbable losses for the Falcons this season. Here is a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ team grades for this tough loss.
This wasn’t actually a bad game for the Atlanta Falcons on offense. Matt Ryan continues to be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and completed 64-percent of his passes this season for 297 yards and a touchdown to Julio Jones. However, it was also Ryan who was responsible for the loss. In the second quarter, Ryan threw an interception to Georgia native Eric Berry, who returned it 37 yards for a pick-six. That put Kansas City up 20-13, and the Chiefs went in ahead at halftime, 20-16.
Atlanta then went up by a point with four minutes left in the game thanks to a Matt Ryan touchdown pass, and the Falcons went for two to potentially extend their lead. However, Ryan threw an interception on the two-point conversion and Berry returned that all the way to give the Chiefs two points. Julio Jones caught seven passes for 113 yards, but was hurt in the game. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 105 rushing yards and Freeman scored two touchdowns.
The Atlanta Falcons’ defense didn’t play well enough to win, something that has cost them throughout the season. They allowed 270 passing yards to Alex Smith, who completed 21 passes and only had four incompletions in the game. One positive note is that Grady Jarrett recovered an Alex Smith fumble. The Falcons also gave up 123 total rushing yards and two touchdowns came on Chiefs running plays. The hardest player to stop was Travis Kelce, who caught eight passes for 140 yards.
Special Teams: D
The game was lost because of special teams and the missed two-point conversion at the end. If not for that play, the Falcons could have won by a point. Matt Bryant hit all three field goals and his only extra point attempt. He would likely have hit the PAT and put the Falcons up by two.
However, there was also poor play in the kicking game. While most kickoffs in the NFL go into the end zone, Atlanta kicked short and had six kicks returned for 130 total yards. That makes things harder on the defense. There was also a fake punt by Kansas City that Atlanta never saw coming that the Chiefs ran for a touchdown.
While the coaching cards tell a coach to go for two if they are up by only one late in the game, it was that coaching call that lost the game for the Atlanta Falcons. Of course, Matt Ryan doesn’t usually throw interceptions, much less ones on two-point conversion attempts, so it was an understandable decision. However, it was a decision that lost this game in the end.
The Atlanta Falcons seemed to have the AFC South in hand, but have completely fallen off the tracks. The Falcons lost two of their last three games and are now tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for first place in the AFC South at 7-5. The two teams have split their season series and suddenly things are not so sure. However, the Falcons next play the 4-8 Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, a team that has dropped seven of their last eight games.