A.J. Terrell’s dropped interception could’ve been difference for Falcons

Credit: AJC

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Falcons rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell discusses his potential game-saving interception that was ruled an incompletion against the Chiefs.

Credit: AJC

A.J. Terrell thought he had it.

The pass from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was underthrown by a hair — just enough for the rookie cornerback to leap into the air in front of wide receiver Tyreek Hill and come down with the ball. Terrell wrapped both hands around the ball and looked to have secured a game-sealing interception with just over two minutes left and the Falcons leading, 14-10 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Then he hit the ground.

The force of the impact knocked the ball loose and it rolled out of Terrell’s hands in the end zone.

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“Just went up for the ball and came down with it,” Terrell said. “The ground just bobbled it loose. I wish I could have it back, but it just is what it is.”

Raheem Morris, the Falcons’ interim head coach, challenged the call of an incomplete pass, but there was little chance of it being overturned.

“It was just too big of a play not to challenge,” Morris said. “Ultimately, I had to make the decision on my own right there and I did. I went for the challenge to try to see what happened, see what New York says.”

After a short review, the ruling on the field was upheld. Terrell had not maintained possession of the ball through the ground, and the Chiefs’ drive continued.

On the very next play, Mahomes found wide receiver Demarcus Robinson wide open in the back of the end zone. The touchdown gave Kansas City a three-point lead — its second lead of the game, and one it wouldn’t relinquish in a 17-14 win.

“We talked about throughout the week as part of the plays that you need to win the game,” Morris said. “We talked about Patrick Mahomes potentially throwing you a few, and when he throws them up there in the air, you’ve gotta come down with them.”

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Atlanta Falcons linebacker Foyesade Oluokun is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs center Austin Reiter after intercepting a pass from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the second half Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Credit: AP

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Foyesade Oluokun is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs center Austin Reiter after intercepting a pass from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the second half Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Falcons linebacker Foyesade Oluokun is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs center Austin Reiter after intercepting a pass from Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes during the second half Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Mahomes has a well-earned reputation as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but Sunday wasn’t his best game as he completed just 24 of 44 of his passes. Even in a less-than-perfect game, Mahomes still finished with 278 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw one interception — caught by linebacker Foye Oluokun — and had at least two other passes come close to being picked off.

Terrell’s near-interception in the fourth quarter would’ve been the second interception of the season for the rookie, who has become one of the key pieces in the Falcons’ secondary and regularly receives the toughest matchups — as proven by his matchup against Hill in the end zone.

If Terrell maintained possession through the ground, the interception could’ve sealed the win for Atlanta — what would’ve been a statement road win over the defending Super Bowl champions.

“Who knew it would end just like that, but it did,” Morris said. “If we come down with that one, that’s the difference in the game. That’s the difference in us sealing the victory.”