Despite an overall improved performance by the Falcons, a trio of Matt Ryan interceptions brought otherwise successful Atlanta drives to abrupt halts, allowing the Chargers to come away with a 20-17 win.
The Chargers offense didn’t have many big plays, but they were great at grinding out possessions and keeping the Falcons defense on the football field. It kept the Atlanta defense winded, allowed their own defense to stay fresh, and mostly kept the Falcons offense off the field.
Through the air, or when needed on the ground, the Chargers got what they needed. Justin Herbert completed 36-of-44 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. Austin Ekeler had 79 yards on the ground, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. The Falcons also had sporadic issues tackling at times, though it was better than last week’s performance.
Atlanta’s offense showed an ability to piece together chunk plays and move down the field at times in ways they weren’t able to last week against the Saints. However, they still had issues finishing drives, and it cost them the game.
The Falcons and Chargers have both been known for their inability to finish games this season, and in a battle between teams who seemingly have an inability to do so, something had to give, and the Chargers came out on top with a game-winning 43-yard field goal by Michael Badgley
Buy A.J. Terrell’s performance: A.J. Terrell looked like the 16th overall pick on Sunday. The Chargers scored a touchdown on their very first possession, a 10-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen that Terrell was in coverage on. Although the score came on Terrell, he truly played the best coverage you could in that situation, and proved he was ready to play with his effort the rest of the way. He finished the game with 13 tackles, a pass deflection, and forced fumble. It’s the type of performance that you like to see from your top draft picks when the season is lost.
Pivotal play: Matt Ryan’s final interception is the obvious choice here, as it led to the Chargers game-winning field goal by Michael Badgley. The Falcons appeared to be setting up kicker Younghoe Koo -- who has been absolute money this season -- for the perfect opportunity to win the game and the it slipped away just as it has many times this season.
Silver lining: The widely used “next-man up” mantra doesn’t always go the way you want it to, but it worked for the Falcons as well as one could hope. The Falcons came into the game without guard James Carpenter and Kaleb McGary, but the offensive line played well against a strong Chargers front.
With Julio Jones out at receiver, Calvin Ridley had six receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown, while Russell Gage contributed four receptions and 65 yards, along with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Ridley. Even Laquon Treadwell scored his first touchdown for the Falcons -- his first TD since Week 13 last season and just his third overall in 58 career games. That type of help is usually reserved for great teams, so if you’re a Falcons fan looking for something to be happy about, that’s a sign of talent being there -- it’s just a matter of getting the most out of it.