I may have mentioned from time to time that I am not one for moral victories. They feel cheap and to be quite honest, I don’t see a ton of value in them.
But for the Atlanta Falcons and their week 16 showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs, their ability to stand tall for four quarters with the defending Super Bowl champions was a pleasant surprise. A 17-14 loss to Chiefs on the road was a tough one that required the Falcons to play near perfect for all four quarters. A missed field goal late cost the Falcons from getting arguably the biggest upset of the entire NFL season. It’s not often that a team can go blow for blow with a team as talented as the Chiefs. With that being said, let’s highlight some important takeaways.
Stellar play from their leader
The Falcons were shorthanded once again on the offensive side of the ball with the absence of receiver Julio Jones and offensive line starters Alex Mack and James Carpenter. That meant that quarterback Matt Ryan needed to step his game up a bit in order for the Falcons to have a legitimate chance. He did just that.
On the day, Ryan was 27-of-35 for 300 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Ryan was under a considerable amount of pressure on the day but when the team needed plays late, Ryan delivered. When the team needed a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, Ryan led the Falcons on a 75-yard drive and went 5-of-6 for 64 yards and a touchdown to receiver Laquon Treadwell to give the Falcons a 14-10 lead. He also guided the team on a 54-yard drive on their last drive of the game and put the team in field goal territory with a chance to tie it and go to overtime. You can say that Ryan outplayed Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and for a quy who has received a lot of backlash this season because of the Falcons mounting losses, this was a game he needed to mute the critics a bit.
Defense came to play
When it comes to facing the Kansas City Chiefs, you know that you have a great deal of pressure on your shoulders to defend against Mahomes and his weapons, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman, and Sammy Watkins. As the Falcons defense is ranked 28th overall, this was the biggest test of the season as they were assigned to defend arguably the best offense in the league.
The Falcons only held the Chiefs offense to just 395 total yards. But if you viewed the game, you can easily tell that the Chiefs offense was never in sync for the entire game. The Chiefs needed 45 passing attempts to total 278 passing yards on the day and lead receiver Tyreek Hill was limited to just 65 receiving yards. In addition, the Falcons were the only opponent to limit the Chiefs to 17 points on the season, which was their lowest output all season. The Falcons defense forced two turnovers but they easily could have had four interceptions on the day if not for a couple of drops by defenders. The Falcons defense has shown plenty of flaws this season but their outing against the Chiefs was largely impressive and kept this game very close.
Playing a team such as the Chiefs means a small and I mean small margin for error. Any mistake or missed opportunity can be costly. For the Falcons, the opportunities were there for them and if they were able to make the best of those chances that were given, we may be talking about a different outcome today.
Rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell dropped a crucial interception with two minutes in the game that I am sure he would love to have back. As someone who has been and will continue to be a huge supporter for him, that is a play that he has to make if he wants to elevate himself as an elite corner. A devastating fumble by receiver Brandon Powell in the fourth quarter stopped a promising drive by the Falcons that had them deep in Chiefs territory with a chance to gain points. These are plays that did not necessarily cost the team the game, but when you’re playing a superior opponent, even the smallest mistakes can leave the door open for a team that is already excellent.