Interceptions cost Falcons in loss to Chargers

The Atlanta Falcons lost a tightly fought game against the Los Angeles Chargers

The Atlanta Falcons lost a tightly fought game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, losing 20-17 in a contest that was close throughout.

Three interceptions played a big role in the outcome of Sunday's game. After Matt Ryan's second interception of the game, Los Angeles looked poised to earn a late win against Atlanta. That all changed, however, when Blidi Wreh-Wilson stepped in front of a Justin Herbert pass to give possession back to the Falcons with a chance to march down the field and win their fifth game of the season. While on that march, Ryan's pass to the sideline, in the direction of Calvin Ridley, was picked off and immediately ended Atlanta's chances for a game-winning play.

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Although Ridley had a stellar individual performance, catching eight passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, and surpassing 1,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career, it was another underwhelming game for Atlanta's offense, overall. The Falcons finished with 319 total yards of offense, including just 70 on the ground, but managed only 17 points and turned the ball over three times.

It was the worst outing of the season for Ryan, who threw for 224 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Outside of Ridley, Ryan's favorite target was Russell Gage, who fared well as the team's No. 2 option and finished with five catches for 82 yards. Ito Smith led Atlanta on the ground with 11 carries for 42 yards. Todd Gurley contributed six carries for 19 yards.

Los Angeles tied the game at 17, apiece, in the third quarter with a steady, methodical 13-play, 80-yard drive following a Ryan's first interception, which came on a deep shot to Calvin Ridley in the end zone. Featuring a nice blend of run plays and pass plays, the Chargers drove into the red zone, but faced a third-and-12 after a textbook open-field tackle by A.J. Terrell. However, Herbert connected with Ty Johnson for a 12-yard touchdown pass while rolling out to his right to avoid pressure.

One of the most impressive rookies in the NFL this season, Herbert continued to play well on Sunday. He completed 36 of his 44 passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The Chargers ran a large variety of screens against the Falcons, which resulted in Austin Ekeler finishing as the team's leading receiver with nine catches for 67 yards. Ekeler also carried the ball 15 times for 79 yards.

Terrell, Atlanta's own first-round pick, had perhaps his best game as a Falcon. The rookie corner led the team with 13 tackles and had both a forced fumble and a pass breakup. Terrell has been one of the true bright spots for Atlanta and arguably the league's top rookie corner this season.

The first half ended in truly bizarre fashion. Facing a third-and-1 with 22 seconds left and no timeouts remaining, the Chargers handed the ball off to Kalen Ballage for a dive up the middle. The Falcons sniffed it out and stopped Ballage for no gain. With no ability to stop the clock, Los Angeles's offense hurried to get back to the line of scrimmage only for the team's field goal unit to start running onto the field. The Chargers' confusion was apparent and resulted in the half ending before they could attempt a field goal.

It was a break for the Falcons that helped them preserve their 17-10 lead, and a wasted opportunity for the Chargers following an impressive drive down the field.

In the second quarter, the two teams traded field goals, but only the Falcons found the end zone. Laquon Treadwell, seeing his first offensive action of the season for Atlanta, caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Ryan. It was his first catch and touchdown as a Falcon, and it gave Atlanta a lead going into halftime.

After going three-and-out to start the game on offense, the Falcons were much more productive on their second drive. Seemingly determined to get Todd Gurley going, Atlanta got its running back the ball on its first five plays. Gurley gained a total of 26 yards on those plays, and a 5-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Calvin Ridley set up a third-and-1 at the Chargers' 39-yard line.

That's when the Falcons dialed up an exceptionally aggressive and creative shot play. Lined up at quarterback, Russell Gage took the snap, created some space in the pocket, and let loose a deep pass to Ridley, who had a step on his defender and caught the 39-yard pass for a touchdown. It was the answer Atlanta needed after giving up a touchdown to Los Angeles.

The Chargers covered 88 yards in 15 plays on their first offensive possession of the game. They converted all three of their third downs on the drive, which culminated in a perfectly placed 10-yard touchdown pass by Justin Herbert to Keenan Allen, who was tightly covered by Terrell.

Following the loss, the Falcons fall to 4-9 and have an incredibly tough road ahead. They have two remaining matchups against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a game against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs sandwiched in between.

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Chargers with top photos from Week 14.

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