NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 16 Game Recap: Atlanta Falcons 20, Detroit Lions 16

Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t pretty, but the Atlanta Falcons kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 20-16 win over the Detroit Lions in Week 16.

The victory moved the Falcons to 7-8 and a game back of the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, who are tied for the second and third wild cards at 8-7.

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Atlanta Falcons

Quarterback

The way Matt Ryan was playing, the Atlanta Falcons offense could have gotten into a roll had it not been for some untimely sacks. The veteran passer went 18-of-24 for 215 yards and a score and finished with an elite 90.5 adjusted completion percentage on the day.

Running Back

There wasn’t much space to work for either of the Falcons' running backs. Of their 42 combined yards, 29 came after contact — that's less than one yard before contact per attempt.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Kyle Pitts was back to putting on a show Sunday. He hauled in all six of his targets for 102 yards, with four going for first downs.

Pitts is now only 50 yards away from 1,000 yards for the season and moves into the second-most yards from a rookie tight end ever. If he can get 127 over his final two games, he’ll break Mike Ditka’s record of 1,076 yards set back in 1961.

Offensive Line

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The Falcons' young offensive line continued to take its lumps. This time it was second-year center Matt Hennessy who struggled to protect Matt Ryan, as he allowed four pressures on 27 pass-blocking snaps.

Defensive Line

Dante Fowler Jr. continues to do little of anything off the edge for the Falcons. He’s yet to produce more than three pressures in any game this season and managed only two against the Lions tackles Sunday. He’s on pace for fewer pressures in a Falcons uniform the past two seasons than the 67 he had with the Rams in 2019.

Linebackers

Foyesade Oluokun wasn’t amid his best performance when he found himself in between a Tim Boyle throw and its intended receiver.

Before that, he had allowed three catches from three targets for 32 yards and a score, but that’s all forgiven when you make the game-winner.

Secondary

A.J. Terrell played like a man on a mission. He didn’t give up a single completion on two targets, marking the fifth straight game in which he’s allowed fewer than 10 yards in his coverage. Terrell was somehow omitted from the 2021 Pro Bowl, so hopefully the All-Pro voters right that wrong.

Detroit Lions

Quarterback

Up until the final throw, it was a much better performance from Tim Boyle than the last time we saw him. After committing three turnover-worthy plays in his first start this year, Boyle avoided making a turnover-worthy play right up until the last throw.

Running Back

It was a boost to have Jamaal Williams back in the fold after missing the past two weeks. He went for 77 yards on 19 carries, with 67 yards coming after contact. He also added three broken tackles, his second-highest single-game total this season.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Amon-Ra St. Brown continues to be the Lions' top receiver despite having no business being so as the 113th overall pick last April. He hauled in all six of his targets for 54 yards. It was his third straight game with at least 50 yards.

Offensive Line

The offensive line did all they could to try and fuel the Lions' offense on Sunday. While they didn’t pass much, the starting five linemen combined to allow only two pressures on 21 pass-blocking snaps.

Defensive Line

Charles Harris’ improbable emergence continued, as he led the Lions with four pressures on only 19 pass-rushing snaps. That gives him over 50 on the season after never having more than 34 in the first four seasons of his career.

Linebackers

Jalen Reeves-Maybin did everything he could to try and secure a Lions victory. His forced fumble late in the fourth quarter gave the Lions an improbable scoring opportunity that they couldn’t capitalize on. He finished with four stops on the day.

Secondary

We saw the most we’ve seen from third-round corner Ifeatu Melifonwu we have all season, and the rookie took his lumps. He allowed a catch on all three of his targets, giving up 68 yards and three first downs. His 46 snaps were 16 more than his previous high, which came back in Week 2 against the Packers.

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