Three words best describe the Atlanta Falcons loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday 29-28: Woulda; Coulda; Shoulda.
The Falcons woulda won if it weren’t for Eric Berry. Berry intercepted two Matt Ryan passes to bookend each half. With the score tied at 13 he stepped in front of a Ryan pass with under a minute to go in the half and rumbled 37 yards to give the Chiefs the lead. Then with a little over four minutes to play in the game after Ryan led the Falcons down to retake the lead Berry did it again as the Falcons tried for two to increase their lead to three. Ryan once again tried to force a throw and Berry intercepted it at the three-yard line. He returned it all the way for two points for the Chiefs to give them the final margin of victory 29-28. And if you looked at final stats you woulda thought the Falcons won. The Falcons out-gained the Chiefs, has 32 first downs compared to Kansas City’s 17 and forced three (almost four) punts.
The Falcons coulda done a better job on special teams. Matt Bosher returned to the team after being out with an injury to resume punting and kickoff duties. The veteran kicker’s leg did not appear as strong as we’ve been accustomed. He had only one kickoff for a touchback while the rest were just barely over the goal line or just shot as the Chief’s De’Anthony Thomas racked up 130 return yards. Bosher only punted once the entire game for 46 yards. The Falcons’ Eric Weems returned only one kick for only 17 yards. Then there was the fake punt on the opening drive as Albert Wilson rumbled 55 yards for a touchdown to a dumbfounded Atlanta special teams unit. The one bright spot on special teams was Matt Bryant. Bryant ended the first half nailing a 59-yard field goal to narrow the margin to 20-16.
The Falcons shoulda kicked more. Twice in the fourth quarter they went for two points after a touchdown with the latter being returned for two points for the Chiefs. That alone was the margin of victory. Add to that a failed fourth down conversion inside the Kansas City ten-yard line. Sure we love the new, more aggressive Falcons offense in the trenches, but when you fail and it’s pretty much an automatic with Bryant, go with the kick. Between the three kicks the Falcons would have won 33-27. The linebackers should have been more aggressive for the Falcons. Alex Smith and the Chiefs are notorious for not throwing long and throw an inordinate amount of passes to the tight end and running backs. Sunday was no exception. Only nine of Smith’s completions went to wide receivers. The other 12 went to tight ends and backs with tight end Travis Kelce leading the team with eight catches. Add to that the fact the leading rusher for the Chiefs was their wide receiver Wilson who ran for 55 yards and a score on the fake punt. Between the kicks not taken and the special teams blunder the Falcons woulda, coulda and shoulda beat the Chiefs 33-20, but alas that wasn’t the case.
The loss combined with Tampa Bay’s win Sunday dropped Atlanta into a first place tie with the Bucs. Atlanta does hold the tiebreaker. Atlanta falls to 3-3 at home this season with only two (possibly more if they win the division) at the Georgia Dome before moving to Mercedes Benz Stadium next season.
Coming into this week’s game Ryan was considered one of three MPV finalists. The other two were Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys. All three had off weeks with Ryan perhaps hurting his chances more with the loss, a pick-six and an intercepted two-point conversion returned for a score to change the outcome of the game. Ryan did throw for almost 300 yards in the loss adding to his NFL record of consecutive 200-plus passing games.
After being non-existent last week against Arizona Julio Jones grabbed seven passes for 113 yards. The bad news is he was injured and suffered turf toe, but team doctors say it’s not serious. A stat that may be interesting to only me, but Atlanta tight ends only accounted for one reception Sunday.
The Falcons look to gain a little redemption next Sunday as they travel to the west coast to take on the Los Angeles Rams. The Falcons technically haven’t played the Rams in Los Angeles since 1994. The Falcons will face 2016 number one overall pick QB Jared Goff who will be making his fourth career start. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25pm and will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal
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