ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons got punched in the mouth a few times and finally fell to the canvas.
Sunday's clash with the Kansas City Chiefs was a heavyweight battle indeed, and maybe the type of game the Falcons needed to keep themselves focused on their playoff goals.
The Chiefs came with the full arsenal, scoring on a pick-six, a fake punt and pick-two after intercepting the Falcons' two-point conversion attempt. All that being said, the Falcons still had a chance to win it in the end but couldn't come up with a defensive stop on a quick slant when they needed it most.
The end result was a 29-28 home loss that dropped the Falcons to 7-5 and made matters that much more interesting in the NFC South. Every loss will give Tampa Bay a sign of hope en route to the division title.
"I think you have to flush it out," quarterback Matt Ryan, who had two costly interceptions, said of the loss. "That's part of being a professional. Sometimes it's hard and sometimes it's tough, but it is really important to move on and get ready for next week. We've got a really good football team and are going out [to Los Angeles] to play a really good defense. We have got to be prepared and ready to play. I will for sure be prepared and ready to play."
If anything else, Sunday's loss to the 9-3 Chiefs showed the Falcons they still have some tinkering to do. Ryan gave up eight points to Chiefs safety Eric Berry with 37-yard pick-six and the game-deciding pick by Berry off a two-point conversion attempt by Ryan.
"It was a poor play on my part," Ryan said of the pass intended for rookie tight end Austin Hooper. "I expected a combination coverage to the outside and Eric Berry did a good job of coming down and going to the tight end. It was a disappointing play and a bad play on my part. Ultimately, that was a tough one. I'm disappointed with it, but we'll learn from it and try to be better moving forward."
Ryan had pretty much the same to say about the pick-six.
"Again, that was a good play by Eric and a decision that I can't make," Ryan said. "I've got to check the ball down or move on. I made the mistake there."
The high-powered Falcons offense didn't close out when it needed to, squandering three red zone opportunities despite a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs by Devonta Freeman and a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Aldrick Robinson. Julio Jones was dominant to start the game but was on the sideline dealing with a lower leg injury down the stretch. And rookie defenders Keanu Neal, De'Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones had their toughest day collectively, missing tackles, taking poor angles and getting beaten in coverage.
"I do know some missed tackles, usually that comes down to leverage," coach Dan Quinn said. "And I know those are correctable and fixable."
The Falcons' coaches learned a thing or two themselves. They'll know not to underestimate the trick play after the Chiefs perfectly executed the fake punt for a 55-yard score. And offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan might be kicking himself over a failed fourth-and-1 pass play from Ryan to Freeman at the Chiefs' 10-yard line.
Injuries could be a factor for the Falcons moving forward, too. Left tackle Jake Matthews left the game with a knee sprain, while wide receiver Mohamed Sanu exited late with a groin injury. Jones said he'll be good to go next week and that being banged-up is just the nature of football. Jones finished Sunday with seven catches for 113 yards but had no catches -- and no targets -- in the fourth quarter.
Quinn has preached all season about resetting after a loss. When it comes to the playoffs, there won't be time to reset. The Falcons had better clean up their act now.