Are Falcons closer to being a contender than their 4-11 record suggests?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- On the surface, there didn’t seem to be a lot to separate the latest Atlanta Falcons loss from many of the others in their 4-11 season. The Falcons lost 17-14 on Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, their eighth defeat by seven points or fewer and their third straight by four or fewer.

To quarterback Matt Ryan, though, it looked a lot different. Ryan noted the opponents this time were the Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champions who have the NFL’s best record at 14-1.

Ryan said the game is evidence the Falcons are closer to being one of the NFL’s better teams than 4-11 would suggest. The Chiefs scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:55 left and then the Falcons were poised to take the game into overtime before Younghoe Koo missed a 39-yard field goal.

“I think it was a great opportunity to learn, No. 1, what we’re capable of but also, No. 2, how fine the line is in this league between being 14-1 and 4-11,’’ Ryan said. “It’s not that much. We’ve got to grow up and figure out how to not make mistakes in critical situations, make the plays when we have our chances. If we can do that, I think we can be a pretty good football team moving forward.”

The game also might have been a statement that interim coach Raheem Morris should get the permanent job. The Falcons confused quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in a way few teams have this season.

Morris was inclined to agree with Ryan. The Falcons finish their season next Sunday against the Buccaneers in Tampa.

“It is really a credit to the team and organization,’’ Morris said. “The biggest takeaway is that we can play with anybody. You line them up and we have a chance to go out there and get after them. These guys certainly can show that and we can certainly do that most of the year. We have not been able to win these games that have come down to the wire and we have to find a way to win these games on the wire. We have to be more consistent with us running the football and we have to be more consistent with the passes that we showed today.

“I think we are close. I think we have the people. We have to fix some things and we have to do some things better in order to put ourselves in the position to be in these meaningful games at the end of the season. I know we can do it with the guys that we have in this room right now. Let’s just go and figure out what is going to happen and get ready to play Tampa Bay next week.”

Until then, the Falcons can look back on yet another game when one play could have made a difference. Cornerback A.J. Terrell dropped an interception on the play before the Chiefs’ go-ahead touchdown. Koo missed a field goal from inside 40 yards for the first time all season. Ryan threw incomplete intended for Calvin Ridley on third down on the play preceding the failed kick.

“You never know when it’s going to be the play,’’ Ryan said. “It’s not necessarily the last kick of the game, or a third down on the last series of a ballgame. There’s a handful of different things that come up whether we miss an assignment or miss a play in the first half that will affect the game just as significantly. I think we’ve got to learn from those lessons and we’ve got to be better as a whole moving forward.”