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Berry Buries Falcons

 By Don Stone - Football Atlanta

   Going into the season, it appeared that Atlanta had one of, if not the most difficult schedule in the NFL. Both teams from last year’s Super Bowl along with the NFC representative from the previous Super Bowl were to be played. But the team that had finished 8-9 in 2015 showed they were much improved, beating not only the Panthers and Broncos (12-4 in 2015) but a tough Raiders team in Oakland and the Packers and Cardinals. Now, they have a one game lead in the NFC South with three of their last five games at home.
  The non NFC South opponents have a combined 2015 record of 86-74. Add that to the NFC South totals and you have a 2016 quality of opponent with a 142-114 record as opposed to 2015 when the opponents were 118-122. The 2016 teams won 24 more games and lost eight fewer.
  But, first on that list is a tough Kansas City team who were 11-5 last year and are one game behind Denver in the AFC West. Their schedule, though, has been a bit easier. Yes, like Atlanta, they also beat Oakland, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Carolina. But their other wins have come against lesser teams in the Colts, Chargers, Jets and Jaguars.
  Both teams have a good shot at the playoffs, but nothing is for sure.
  Kansas City won the toss and deferred to the second half with Atlanta starting off on their 19. A quick shot to Julio Jones got 11 to the 30. Another and Jones got it 16 yards to the 46. That passed Terrence Mathis for second place in receiving yards in team history. But, he wasn’t done there. A third pass in a row got 17 more into Chiefs territory at the 37. Just for variety, Matt Ryan handed off to Devonta Freeman for an 8 yard gain. Freeman zig zagged through the backfield for a first down run to the 23. Freeman switched it up and caught a short pass, taking it 12 more to the 11. A screen pass to Taylor Gabriel duplicated what he did twice last week taking it into the end zone. But, a holding call moved it back to the 18. Another pass to Jones got 8 bringing up a third and 11 from the 12. A pass interference call against Daniel Sorenson at the goal line gave Atlanta a new set of downs at the one. On the next play, Freeman took it in for the finish of a very impressive ten play, 4:58, 81 yard drive and a 7-0 lead.
   KC began their first drive at the 28 with a reverse to Tyreek Hill that picked up 13 to the 41. Tight end Travis Kelce was open at the AF38 for a 21 yard catch. Alex Smith went deep to Kelce for 35 and a first and goal at the three. On the next play, Spencer Ware took it in for six but the extra point was blocked for a 7-6 score.
  Atlanta’s second drive started at their 25. Tevin Coleman was in at RB and got a quick 8 followed by a neutral zone infraction moving the ball to the 38. Ryan went deep to Jones and drew a flagrant 40 yard pass interference call on Eric Berry. Ball at the 22. Three flags were thrown on the next play with a roughing the passer call getting another 15 to the 11. Coleman carried it to the six. A sack by Justin Houston ended the drive at the four with Matt Bryant kicking a 22 yard field goal making it 10-6.
  The Chiefs second drive began at their 23. Ware evaded a handful of defenders before being brought down 8 yards later at the 31. De’Anthony Thomas added 23 on a rush to the left, brought down by Ricardo Allen. Ware got 7 more to make it third and three at the AF39. Smith was sacked by Vic Beasley with Grady Jarrett recovering. Atlanta’s ball at their 43.
  A short pass to Freeman and the back got sixteen after the catch to the KC41. Aldrick Robinson got his first catch for 13 to the 28. Ryan could find no one open and dumped it off to Freeman up the middle for 7. On the next play, another call on Kansas City for illegal use of the hands. First down at the 13. Freeman escaped a tackle in the backfield and wove his way for four. Twelve men on the defense put the ball at the four. Atlanta could get no more on the next three plays forcing another Bryant FG from 22 to make it 13-6. A pair of red zone misses so far cost the Falcons 8 points.
  First quarter stats had Atlanta with the ball 10:38 to KC’s 4:22. A big factor helping Atlanta was the 77 total yards of penalties on the visitors.
  Thomas chose to take the ball out of the end zone on and only made it to the 16 coupled with a holding call. Ball at the 8. Hill caught one for 13. On a third and 11 at the 20 Smith hit an open Albert Wilson for 21 to the 41. Kelsey complete for 16 more at the AF43. Kelsey made a catch at the left then rambled for 27 all the way to the 12. Hill got it to the three on a pair of moves bringing up a fourth and one. Andy Reid called his first time out to come up with a play. It worked with Ware catching a pass into the end zone to tie the game at 13. The drive went 11 plays and 92 yards in 6:20. The two missed red zone opportunities had made the game even.
   A screen pass to Coleman got a first down but had it called back on an ineligible player downfield call. Second and 12 at the 23. Gabriel caught a pass that should have drawn a horse collar call. But it picked up 7, nonetheless. A first down catch by Justin Hardy put it at the 37. Freeman carried it to the 42 but the Falcons could get no further. Jake Matthews limped off the field and was taken to the locker room with a knee injury, missing the rest of the game.
   “It was a sprain for him and we’ll have more information for you tomorrow,” said Quinn after the game. “He was not able to return today. He was certainly trying to so hopefully it won’t be a long-term issue with him.”
   Matt Bosher’s first punt for 46 yards was downed at the ten with 3:17 left in the half.
   The Chiefs had a great chance to take the lead with potentially the ball for the final three minutes then getting the ball first in the second half. Ware broke a tackle and took it to the 25 at the two minute warning. A pass interference call on KC made it second and 20 at the 15. Reid took his second time out at 1:07. The defense stopped them at the 30 as Dan Quinn took his first time out with a minute to go.
   Then, a big change of events as Ryan was picked off by former Tennessee standout Eric Berry for a pick six and a 20-13 halftime lead.
   Atlanta had one more shot hitting Freeman for 14 to the 39 with 16 seconds to go. Ryan was almost picked off again but saw Sorenson drop the ball. Ryan scrambled for another first down at midfield with just six seconds. Gabriel caught one at the KC40 and called a quick timeout stopping the clock at two seconds. Bryant came it and punched one through from 59 yards to make the score 20-16 at the half. It tied the longest field goal in team history, set in 1999 by Morten Andersen.
  After jumping out to a hot start, the Chiefs’ defense had done a good job holding the Atlanta offense to just 60 yards and four first downs in the second quarter. The difference so far being the Berry interception.
  As mentioned, KC had the ball and started in good field position after Thomas took the punt to the 36. A pass to Ware made it third and 8 at the 38. Robert Alford forced out at the 45. KC lined up to go for it on fourth and one when Quinn took his first time out to change the defense. Reid lined his team up for a fake punt and hiked it to Wilson who sprinted 55 yards untouched for a 27-16 lead. Since Atlanta’s 7-0 start on the opening drive, KC had outscored them 27-9.
  Atlanta needed to turn the momentum around. A TD would do that and pull them back to within four. They started at their 25. A nice weaving run by Freeman got 14 to the 39. Mohamed Sanu got his second catch to the KC43. Coleman took it up the middle for nine to the 39. Jones made his first catch since the first quarter for 20 going out of bounds at the 19. Two incompletions made it third and ten. He got all but one on a nine yard catch by Gabriel. Quinn elected to go for it on fourth and one at the ten and failed, turning it over on downs. Another three points left on the field. Still down by 11, 27-16.
  Needing a stop, the Kansas City offense moved the ball down the field. A holding call followed by a false start did a better job of slowing down the offense than Atlanta had been doing. Third and 17 at the KC47. An off sides call on Atlanta got back five of that to the atl48. Too much to overcome, Atlanta got the ball back at their 25 with still a shot to get back to within four.
  A Ryan sack was followed by an illegal use of hands call giving the Falcons a first down at their 18. Jones was left uncovered for 21 at the 39. A spectacular diving catch by Jones got another 20 at the KC46. The third quarter ended.
  Freeman picked up 13 with a run to the 21. Another off sides call made it third and four at the 15. A clutch catch by Gabriel made it first and goal at the one with Freeman getting the six. Down by five, Quinn went for the two point conversion to bring it to within a field goal but couldn’t do it. But, at least they were within a score down 27-22.
  The defense needed a stop with KC starting at their 21 with 11:51 to go in the game. They got a first down on a five yard Hill catch at the 31. Wilson got 8 for a big third and two at the 39. Smith had Ware open for a sure TD but overthrew him, forcing a punt. Atlanta ball at their 20. Coleman got four straight carries for a third and one at the 40. Ryan called his team’s second time out with 6:57 remaining. A fake handoff then a toss over the pack to Levine Toilolo who took it 42 yards to the KC18. Because of the earlier missed points, they now needed a TD to go ahead with just over five minutes to go. Another third and nine and Ryan got it all and more running out of bounds at the five. Two plays later, Robinson put Atlanta back ahead 28-27. Again, they went for the two point conversion to put the lead to a field goal difference. Instead, he was picked off again by Berry who took it the distance putting KC back up by one, 29-28. It was announced that Sanu had sustained a groin injury with his return questionable.
  Atlanta desperately needed another stop with just 4:32 left. Helping the cause was an illegal block in the back putting KC on their eight. They got out of the hole on a Kelce catch at the 22 with 3:00 to go. A third and six came down at the two minute warning. With just one time out left, Atlanta was in desperation to get a stop. Another first own and the Chiefs could just run out the clock. Wilson converted with a catch at the 35. Allen was banged up on the play as Quinn took his final time out at 1:53. Barring a turnover, this one was over as Smith took a few knees. Final score, Kansas City (now 9-3) 29, Atlanta (now 7-5) 28. Fans would watch the Tampa Bay game, which followed at San Diego. The Bucs came into the day just a game behind Atlanta and now had a chance to pull to a tie with a win.

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