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Tabeek: Loss to Chiefs shines light on Falcons' biggest flaw

The Atlanta Falcons are still struggling to find a way to win close games


Long before the Atlanta Falcons kicked off the 2020 season, the one game that stood out more than any other was this Week 16 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

And why not? A late-season showdown against the defending Super Bowl champs sandwiched between two meetings with Tom Brady and the Bucs would provide a gut-check for just about any team. Adding to the early intrigue was also the fact that Atlanta was a combined 14-2 over its final four games the last four seasons.

If the Falcons were going to be contenders in 2020, the last quarter of this season would be very telling. And this late-December showdown in Kansas City was supposed to be the ultimate measuring-stick game for the Falcons.

The reality of 2020 was this: Atlanta stumbled into this one sporting a 4-10 record and was officially eliminated from playoff contention a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles. Kansas City, meanwhile, rolled into Sunday's game winning 19 of its last 20 regular-season games.

The Chiefs offense, ranked first in passing yards and with the most 20-plus yard passes, was pitted against a Falcons defense that ranked 31st and dead last in those respective categories.

Sunday's game had all of the makings of a lopsided affair and that so-called measuring stick was supposed to expose just how far these Falcons needed to go in order to be consistent winners and playoff contenders again.

It didn't play out that way.

Instead, the Falcons went toe-to-toe and exchanged blow after blow with the big, bad Chiefs. And with barely two minutes left in regulation, Atlanta was somehow clinging to a four-point lead.

Somehow because the Falcons entered Sunday plus-67 in point differential in the first half of games and were minus-65 in the final two quarters of play. Somehow because they jumped out to a 7-0 lead and are 4-6 in games when that happens.

Well, make it 4-7 now.

No, there wasn't a blood bath in Kansas City on Sunday. The Chiefs didn't mop the turf at Arrowhead Stadium with Falcons players.

What happened was the Falcons stayed true to form, and they blew a lead for the 10th time this season. And just when you think Atlanta has found every possible way to lose, it comes up with another painful series of events that leaves fans of the Black and Red reeling and numb.

With 2:07 left to go, A.J. Terrell appeared to have come down with what likely would have been a game-sealing interception in the right corner of the end zone. The Falcons' promising young cornerback couldn't secure the ball as he hit the ground.

On the very next play, Mahomes hit Demarcus Robinson for a 25-yard touchdown that put the Chiefs up 17-14 with 2:01 to play.

Even then, Matt Ryan had a chance to lead the Falcons to what would have been the 40th game-winning drive of his career and the first of this season. He gave the Falcons a chance.

But with 14 seconds left, Younghoe Koo missed what would have been a game-tying 39-yard field goal attempt, his first miss after making 27 straight.

That's three would-have-been moments in the last two minutes.

The 14-1 Chiefs may not have exposed a bunch of glaring weaknesses in the Falcons on Sunday, but they did shine a bright light on one serious flaw in them: They don't know how to finish.

The difference between the Chiefs and Falcons in that sense is startling, too.

With the win, the Chiefs improved to 8-0 in games decided by six points or less this season.

The Falcons are now 0-7 in those situations.

Kansas City secured the No. 1 seed and a bye throughout the AFC playoffs.

The Falcons, meanwhile, took another step in securing a top-five draft pick in April's NFL Draft.

Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs with top photos from Week 16.

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