Falcons running back Todd Gurley tried to fall down before scoring.

He left the defense too much time.

“I shouldn’t have scored,” Gurley said.

Detroit’s Matthew Stafford drove the Lions down the field and tossed a side-arm touchdown pass to tight end T.J. Hockenson as time expired to give the Lions a 23-22 victory Sunday before 7,796 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“You have to have the ability to pick up the ball when the guy is scrambling around and throwing it in the air,” Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said. “We have got to find ways to finish the game better. We did not get it done today.”

ExploreSteve Hummer: Falcons' own touchdown costs 'em

The Falcons trailed 16-14 with 3:16 left in the game. Gurley’s touchdown put them up 20-14. A two-point conversion pass to Calvin Ridley was completed.

Detroit Lions linebacker Jamie Collins signals touchdown as Falcons running back Todd Gurley attempted to stop short of the goal line to expend more time on the clock in the fourth quarter Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Gurley's touchdown gave Atlanta a 20-16 lead and the Falcons added the 2-point conversion to extend the lead to 22-16 with a minute left in the game. The Lions scored as time expired to win 23-22. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Detroit Lions linebacker Jamie Collins signals touchdown as Falcons running back Todd Gurley attempted to stop short of the goal line to expend more time on the clock in the fourth quarter Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Gurley's touchdown gave Atlanta a 20-16 lead and the Falcons added the 2-point conversion to extend the lead to 22-16 with a minute left in the game. The Lions scored as time expired to win 23-22. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

But there was the matter of the Lions getting the ball with 1:04 left to play.

The defense, which couldn’t mount any pass rush, couldn’t hold Stafford, the former Georgia standout.

“He made some big, splash plays today,” Morris said of defensive end Dante Fowler. "We needed one more from somebody and we didn’t get it.”

The Lions improved to 3-3 on the season, while the Falcons dropped to 1-6. It was the Falcons' latest fourth-quarter collapse to go along with horrific losses early in the season to Dallas and Chicago when they blew double-digit, fourth-quarter leads.

“It’s our two-minute defense just in general,” Morris said. “Right there before the half, they got three. Right at the end of the game, they scored six. We have to find a way to get better. We have to find a way to tighten up, be more stout.”

ExploreTodd Gurley: ‘I shouldn’t have scored’

Here are the five things we learned from the loss:

1. Long drives: The Falcons put together two touchdown drives that went for nearly 6 minutes in the first half. They had another that stretched over the third and fourth quarters, but it did not yield any points after a failed fourth-and-5 attempt at Detroit’s 13-yard line.

They passed on a field goal they would end up needing.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan led the Falcons on a 13-play, 89-yard touchdown drive that took 5:48 off the clock in the first and second quarters. Gurley scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Fullback Keith Smith had a nice lead block on the play.

After the defense stopped the Lions on a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, the offense got the ball back. Fowler had a big hit on Detroit running back Adrian Peterson to foil the scoring attempt.

The Falcons converted on three third-down situations as they drove methodically down the field. Ryan was 7 of 9 for 88 yards during the 14-play, 98-yard drive.

Ryan tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley to put the Falcons up 14-7 with 29 seconds left before the half.

ExploreWhat Matt Ryan said of the loss
Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley gets past Detroit Lions safety Duron Harmon for a touchdown catch that gave Atlanta a 14-7 lead during the second quarter Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley gets past Detroit Lions safety Duron Harmon for a touchdown catch that gave Atlanta a 14-7 lead during the second quarter Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The Lions zipped down the field to get in field goal range and Matt Prater hit a 50-yarder as time expired in the first half with the Falcons up 14-10.

The Lions added a 51-yard field goal by Prater on their first possession of the second half to make it 14-13.

The Falcons stalled and were forced to punt with 4:47 left in the third quarter.

The defense forced a punt and the offense went on another long drive. However, the 13-play drive stalled when a pass intended for Ito Smith was tipped by Detroit’s defensive end Trey Flowers.

“That was a good play by them,” Ryan said. “Tipped ball by them. I just didn’t get the job done. That was disappointing. It was a really good drive.

“We were backup and going down the field. An aggressive call. We’ve got to find a way to make that play. I’ve got to find a way to make that play.”

ExploreWhat Raheem Morris said after loss to Lions

2. Defenseless Stafford: In a bizarre call, Falcons rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell hit Stafford after he left the pocket. He was called for unnecessary roughness on what looked like a routine hard tackle.

Lions running back D’Andre Swift scored on a 3-yard touchdown run on the next play to put the Lions up 7-0.

Terrell appeared to leave his feet, but was not called for launching. Stafford had left the pocket and therefore had turned into a running player.

3. Pass rush lacking. It was the first game back for defensive end Takk McKinley, but he was a nonfactor. He finished with one tackle.

McKinley had played just five snaps over the past four games after suffering a groin injury against Dallas in Game 2.

When the Falcons needed pressure, they blitzed.

Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones had key sacks in the third quarter for the Falcons.

Stafford often had time to scan the field and pick out his receivers.

4. Battle of the Georgia RBs. Atlanta’s Gurley and Detroit’s Swift, who both played at Georgia, had key roles in the game as each had a rushing touchdown.

Gurley rushed 23 times for 63 yards and two touchdowns.

Swift rushed nine times for 27 yards and a touchdown. He caught four passes for 21 yards.

“They played well up front,” Ryan said. “Their defensive front seven played tough. They are big and physical. They did a nice job against our run game.”

Lions running back D’Andre Swift (right) slips away from the grasp of Falcons defender Grady Jarrett for a touchdown in the first quarter Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Lions running back D’Andre Swift (right) slips away from the grasp of Falcons defender Grady Jarrett for a touchdown in the first quarter Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

5a. How did Hockenson get so open? On the game-winning touchdown, Fowler made Stafford move to his right, but McKinley’s rush was too high and he ran past the quarterback. Stafford slid out to his left and found some open room.

Hockenson ran across linebacker Deion Jones’ helmet and kept moving with Stafford to get open.

“We had the opportunity for the win,” said Neal, who led the Falcons with 11 tackles. “It was winning time and we didn’t do that. It was one of those games that you felt you had in the bag and when you don’t come out victorious it obviously hurts.”

Neal was in the back of the end zone on the winning touchdown.

“He got out of the pocket and we just had to plaster honestly,” Neal said. “It’s not really much else to it. We had an opportunity. We have to stick to the guys.

“It gets tough when he gets out of the pocket and you have to stick to the guys because they are changing routes. They are basically freestyling, playing football at that time. Now, it’s find a guy and stick to him to make sure that he doesn’t get open.”

5b. Injury report: Falcons center Alex Mack left the game on the team’s first possession. Rookie Matt Hennessy took over for Mack, who returned on the next possession and finished out the game.

Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage got tangled up with Detroit linebacker Reggie Ragland in the first quarter. His left knee got caught underneath him on the play and it looked pretty gruesome on the replay.

Gage was able to walk off the field and returned to the game after halftime.

Wide receiver Julio Jones was seen several times on the sideline getting his left hamstring stretched out by the trainers.

102520 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley reacts to catching the pass for the 2-point conversion and a 22-16 lead over the Detroit Lions during the fourth quarter Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
102520 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley reacts to catching the pass for the 2-point conversion and a 22-16 lead over the Detroit Lions during the fourth quarter Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

102520 Atlanta: Falcons cornerback Kendall Sheffield reacts as Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (left) scores a touchdown as time expires Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
102520 Atlanta: Falcons cornerback Kendall Sheffield reacts as Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (left) scores a touchdown as time expires Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Falcons' next four games

Lions at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25

Falcons at Panthers at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29

Broncos at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8

Falcons at Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

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