Matt Ryan points to fine line between 14-1 and 4-11

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/AP)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

For the 17th time in franchise history, the Falcons have lost at least 11 games.

The Falcons didn’t go down without a major fight Sunday against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

A missed field goal, a dropped interception and missed connection on a potential game-winning touchdown all contributed to the 17-14 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to learn what we are capable of, but also how fine the line is in this league between being 14-1 and 4-11,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “It’s not that much. We’ve got to grow up and figure out how not to make mistakes in critical situations, make the plays when we have our chances. If we can do that, I think we can be a pretty good football team moving forward.”

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It was the seventh time this season the Falcons have lost by six points or less.

“It’s just making a play here or there,” Ryan said. “It’s not really much more than that. At different times, it’s been different guys. We’ve got to find a way to make the plays.”

The Chiefs are 14-1 and wrapped up the No. 1 seed for the AFC playoffs, while the Falcons dropped to 4-11 and are looking to the future after closing out the season next Sunday at Tampa Bay.

Ryan has only lost 11 or more games once in his career. Back in 2013, the Falcons went 4-12.

But on this day, the Falcons battled the Chiefs until kicker Younghoe Koo’s 39-yard field goal attempt went wide right with nine ticks left on the clock.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) can't haul in this pass late in the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (Reed Hoffmann/AP)
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) can't haul in this pass late in the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (Reed Hoffmann/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

There was A.J. Terrell’s near interception and Ryan thought he had Calvin Ridley open for a touchdown pass, but the makeshift offensive line didn’t hold up against the Chiefs pass rush. He had to float a pass before he was ready to throw.

“It goes back to how fine the line is between wins and losses and between great teams and teams who are out of the playoffs,” Ryan said. “The great teams find ways to get the job done and they make the plays when they are there.”

The Falcons, who were double-digit underdogs, were left to consider another near-win.

“I think that is one constant that has been here this entire year,” Ryan said. “It’s a group that is going to fight. It’s a group that is going to play hard and compete every week. From that standpoint, I think everybody can be pleased with the type of guys that we have in our locker room.”

With Alex Mack out (concussion), Matt Hennessy started at center. Matt Gono made his first start at left guard. The interior of the line — right guard Chris Lindstrom included — had major problems with Chiefs Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones.

“They have some good interior tackles for the Kansas City Chiefs,” Ryan said. “Not easy guys to go against and they held up. I think (Hennessy and Gono) will have some things they’d like to improve on, but that’s everybody. For the most part, on balance, I thought they did a nice job the entire day.”

The Falcons’ running backs combined to rush 21 times for 98 yards for a respectable 4.6 yards per carry.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan hands off to running back Ito Smith during the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan hands off to running back Ito Smith during the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

“I thought we ran the ball effectively for sure,” Ryan said. “That helped us. That helped us eat up some of the clock, change field position at certain times, certainly slow down their pass-rush. I thought, for the most part, our run game was effective.”

The Falcons are 4-6 under interim coach Raheem Morris.

“The offense has had some success all day with moving the football,” Morris said. “We had the ability to run the football today. The ability to spread those guys out and throw some balls. We didn’t get as many explosive (plays) as we wanted to. We didn’t get as many points as we wanted to.”

Morris did like the fight of the team also.

“At the end of the day, they fought tough, played well, stayed resilient,” Morris said. “Ultimately, they are not going to be happy with the results. We have to find a way to win those games.”

On the Falcons’ last drive, some thought Morris should have called a timeout after they picked up a first down on a run by Todd Gurley. Morris said he wasn’t trying to leave any time left for Mahomes.

“Not my call,” Ryan said. “I thought it was good to keep them off balance. We had plenty of time from where we were at on the field. We had plenty of time. We got three sets of downs in. We had a really good chance for a touchdown on a double move to Calvin, but we just didn’t hold up. I thought we did fine there. We gave ourselves a chance.”

The 2020 Falcons join the following teams with 11 losses or more: 1966, ’67, ’68,’ 74, ’84,’ 85,’ 87,’ 88, ’89, ’90, ’96, ’99, 2000,’ 03, ’07 and ’13.

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