KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The one thing the Atlanta Falcons could count on all season was Younghoe Koo.
There had been games their offense let them down. Or their defense blew a lead. Yet their kicker had been just about perfect, making every field-goal attempt but one while earning an unlikely but unquestionably deserved Pro Bowl nod.
So when Falcons coach Raheem Morris watched Koo push a 39-yard attempt wide right Sunday that would have sent their game against the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs to overtime — well, that’s pretty much how the season has gone for a team that was instead left to dwell on its seventh loss in a one-possession game.
“The biggest takeaway is that we can play with anybody,” Morris said after the 17-14 defeat at Arrowhead Stadium. “Most of the year we haven’t been able to win these games that come down to the wire. We have to win these games.”
After struggling most of the way, Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense twice gave them a chance.
The first came after the Chiefs had taken their first lead on Harrison Butker’s 53-yard field goal with 14:08 left in the game. The teams traded punts before Ryan led the Falcons 75 yards in 3 1/2 minutes, overcoming a holding penalty on fill-in center Matt Hennessy along the way, and hit Laquon Treadwell for the go-ahead score with 4:33 left in the game.
“It’s just making a play here or there,” Ryan said. “It’s not much more than that.”
The second chance came after Patrick Mahomes threw a 25-yard strike to Demarcus Robinson in the back of the end zone to give Kansas City the lead back. Ryan completed three quick passes to Russell Gage and Calvin Ridley, who finished with five catches for 130 yards, and Todd Gurley picked up a first down with a hard third-down run.
But when gifted first-and-5 at the Kansas City 21 because of a penalty with 27 seconds left, Ryan promptly threw three consecutive incomplete passes, forcing Morris to send the field-goal unit onto the field for a shot at overtime.
“At that moment, I just have to come through when my name is called,” said Yoo, who had made 27 straight field-goal attempts. “It is what it is. I’ll learn from it and I’ll definitely work harder from that and then next time I’ll make it.”
Ryan was quick to point out the loss fell on the team, rather than just one player.
To wit: Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell had an opportunity to seal the win when he had an interception in his hands in the end zone with just over 2 minutes left. But the ball bounced out when Terrell hit the turf, and it was the very next play Mahomes saw Robinson wide open in the back of the end zone to give Kansas City the lead.
To make matters worse, Morris unsuccessfully challenged the interception, costing him a timeout for the final drive.
“The scoreboards did a great job of not showing the play. It only showed him catching it,” Morris said. “I had to make the decision right there and it was too big not to go for it, and see what New York says.”
On a drive earlier in the half, the Falcons had moved briskly into Kansas City territory after long passes to Ridley and Hayden Hurst. But when Ryan threw a swing pass to Brandon Powell, the young wide receiver had the ball punched out in the Chiefs red zone as he was fighting for extra yardage, costing them another scoring opportunity.
“At different times it’s been different guys, but we’ve got to find a way to make the plays,” Ryan said. “It goes back to the fine line between wins and losses and between great teams and teams that are out of the playoffs. The great teams find a way to get the job done and make the plays when they’re there.”
The silver lining for the Falcons: They may have lost their fourth straight game, all by five points or fewer, but each loss the rest of the way will either preserve or improve their positioning for the NFL draft.
“You understand that from the fans’ perspective,” Ryan said, “but our job is to go out there and compete and win. … You put the work in all week and go out there and give yourself a chance and fall a little bit short, it’s tough.”
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