INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons had two opportunities in the final four minutes to beat the Los Angeles Chargers.
Both chances ended with Matt Ryan throwing an interception, leading to a 20-17 defeat Sunday that guaranteed a third straight losing season and raised more questions about the future of their veteran quarterback.
“I feel like I’m fresh and in a good spot. I just haven’t played as well as I would like, and that sometimes happens,” Ryan said.
Ryan was 21 of 32 passing for 224 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, his 11th career game throwing at least three picks for the Falcons (4-9). Though he passed Peyton Manning for most career passing yards through 13 NFL seasons, Ryan was more concerned with where and when he turned the ball over.
With less than four minutes remaining and back outside the red zone after a holding penalty, Ryan stared down tight end Hayden Hurst and allowed safety Jahleel Addae to jump the route.
“Yeah, I was a little late, and he did a nice job of slow playing it,” Ryan said. “But that was, that was poor on me. I’ve got to get the ball out right away, give Hayden the chance to keep the chains moving, and that was late and a bad decision on my part.”
Ryan looked as if he had gotten a reprieve when Blidi Wreh-Wilson intercepted rookie quarterback Justin Herbert with 47 seconds remaining. A throw over the middle to Russell Gage got the Falcons to the edge of field-goal range, but Ryan put his throw for Calvin Ridley too far inside and it was snatched away by cornerback Michael Davis.
“You know, you can’t turn the ball over, particularly in those critical situations,” interim coach Raheem Morris said. “Too many turnovers to overcome today. Too many mistakes by us from an offensive standpoint, from a defensive standpoint, all around, special teams, all across the board. We got to make better decisions, better plays on the road in order to win the football games.”
A 25-yard pass from Herbert to Tyron Johnson would set up Michael Badgley’s 43-yard field goal as time expired, leaving Ryan to blame himself for giving the Chargers (4-9) one more possession.
“That’s on me, you know,” Ryan said. “I’ve got to make a better throw, and, you know, put it high in a way on the sideline and give Cal a chance. It’s just a poor throw.”
Ryan believes he can still play at the level necessary for the Falcons to compete in spite of those costly errors.
“I got plenty in the tank,” Ryan said. “I just got to play better, and unfortunately stuff like this happens sometimes in professional sports, and you just kind of grind through it and you gotta find a way to be better. And I’m committed to that and I certainly think I’ll play better next week.”
Morris offered a strong defense of Ryan, saying this game where a non-productive rushing offense that managed 70 yards to leave the Falcons reliant on their quarterback to make things happen didn’t shake his faith.
“There’s not a lot of things that’s gonna make me lose my confidence in Matt Ryan, a guy who was MVP of this league,” Morris said. “A guy that is very capable of getting it done. A guy that I trust his process and I trust everything he’s about and who he is and what he stands for. I got all the backing in Matt Ryan that you possibly have in a coach.”
But there are lingering concerns. Ryan had just two completions longer than 20 yards, and Gage had the team’s longest pass on a 39-yard touchdown throw to Ridley out of the wildcat. Ridley, Gage and Todd Gurley were the only Falcons to catch multiple passes, compared to Herbert finding five different players for at least three receptions.
Ryan believes he has more to contribute and, with a massive contract that ties him to the Falcons through at least next season, hopes to prove that with his play in the final three games.
“I’m a big believer in process and so you learn from these games where you don’t play your best, and you try and not make the same mistakes again and move forward and believe that when you’re in those positions again you’re gonna create a different outcome, and I firmly believe that,” Ryan said.
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