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3 takeaways for the Atlanta Falcons after Week 14

So close for the Falcons, yet no cigar.

Atlanta Falcons v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

For a team that is ranked 32nd in the NFL in average roster age, the Atlanta Falcons have played their games this season in the fashion of a young team looking to find it’s way. Just like their week two contest against Dallas or their week three tussle with Chicago, the Falcons had a difficult time closing out games within their reach.

This past Sunday’s matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers was just another chapter in what has been a long season for the Falcons. A game-winning field goal as time expired gave the Chargers a 20-17 win over the Falcons. A game in which both teams desperately tried to one up each other late in the fourth quarter but in a negative way. Check out my three takeaways from the Chargers contest.

Ugly outing by Matt Ryan

The game as a whole was two different stories for the veteran quarterback. On one hand, Ryan passed legendary Peyton Manning for the most passing yards by a quarterback in their first 13 seasons. Earlier this season, if you recall, Ryan passed John Elway for ninth all-time in total passing yards. This game was another stage for Ryan to accomplish another impressive milestone.

However, Ryan’s three interceptions on the day proved to be the difference in this matchup. Two of those interceptions came on back-to-back drives late in the fourth quarter with under four minutes remaining. Both interceptions came in Chargers territory and thwarted what may have been game-winning scoring drives for the Falcons.

Ryan was without his favorite target, receiver Julio Jones, but that is an unreliable excuse for the veteran passer. In a season where the team as a whole has had a problematic time trying to win games as they are on the doorstep of victory, seeing someone the team counts on to be a top performer and leader playing poorly down the stretch was undoubtedly discouraging.

Atlanta Falcons v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Credit to the defense

Coming into this matchup, the Chargers were noted to possess an offense that is full of youth and equally full of talent, which meant an overall tough assignment for the Falcons.

However, for a Chargers offense that is fourth in passing and eighth overall, the Falcons defense did a very solid job of bottling up the Chargers offense a bit and preventing them from collecting big chunk plays. For a good portion of the game, the Falcons were a very physical unit on defense that made the shoulder pads pop on numerous occasions. You would love to see the sacks numbers improve and even a few more turnovers, but the job conducted on Sunday by Atlanta’s defense was one that deserved significant credit.

Ridley also reaches a milestone

The Falcons hit the field without their lead ace at receiver in Julio Jones. But they were able to still deploy one of the best weapons in the league in Calvin Ridley. Ridley posted eight receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown and, in the process, recorded his first 1,000-yard season. By doing so, Ridley became the fifth Alabama receiver in league history to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

Ridley is now eighth in the league in receiving yards and tied for ninth in receiving touchdowns. Ridley set a benchmark of 1,000 receiving yards prior to the season, making it clear he expected to reach that mark for the first time. By doing that and living up to it, he has shown his value to this Falcons offense, which may only grow in the years ahead.