ATLANTA – So close.
Head coach Dan Campbell and the Detroit Lions came up just short of starting their first winning streak of the season, dropping Sunday's contest against the Falcons, 20-16, in the final seconds.
The Lions were marching late with a chance to score a touchdown and take the lead at the Falcons' 9-yard line, but a Tim Boyle pass intended for wide receiver Kalif Raymond was intercepted at the Atlanta 1-yard line by linebacker Foyesade Oluokun to end the comeback bid.
The loss drops the Lions to 2-12-1 on the year and winless on the road.
Detroit struck first with a 26-yard field goal from kicker Riley Patterson to cap off a 13-play, 54-yard drive on their first possession of the game to take a 3-0 lead. That came after Detroit's defense had three sacks to force a punt on Atlanta's first possession of the game.
The Falcons took the lead early in the second quarter when Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson got around the edge on a 4th and 1 play at the Lions' 6-yard line and reached the ball across the goal line to give Atlanta a 7-3 lead.
The Lions retook the lead on a 20-yard scoring strike from Boyle to rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown late in the second quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 21-yard pass from punter Jack Fox to wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge on a fake punt at the Atlanta 45-yard line.
St. Brown has had a heck of a month for the Lions. He entered Sunday with 26 receptions for 259 yards and two touchdowns over his last three games. He finished Sunday with 9 catches for 91 yards and a score.
After trading field goals and heading into the fourth quarter tied 13-13, Atlanta took the lead on a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Ryan to tight end Hayden Hurst with about 13 minutes remaining in the game.
Detroit answered with a 17-play, 10-minute drive, but it stalled at the Atlanta 8-yard line, and Campbell opted to kick a field goal instead of trying to convert the 4th and 5. That trimmed the Falcons' lead to 20-16 with 2:38 left.
Detroit's defense then came up with a huge turnover to give the offense back the ball with a chance to win the game with a little more than two minutes remaining, but the game ended on the Boyle interception.
QB comparison: Boyle, who was making just his second career start with Jared Goff on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, finished completing 24 of his 34 passes for 187 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a 81.4 passer rating.
Ryan was 18-of-24 passing for 215 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 115.8
Key moment: Trailing 20-16 after opting to kick a field goal instead of attempting a 4th and 5 from the Atlanta 8-yard line, Campbell put his faith in the defense with two minutes, 38 seconds on the clock and all three of their timeouts, plus the two-minute warning stoppage of clock.
Detroit's defense got to 3rd and 7, and came up with a huge play when linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin knocked the ball out of Atlanta wide receiver Russell Gage's arms. It was recovered by Lions safety Dean Marlowe at the Atlanta 37-yard line with just over two minutes left in the game.
Huge play there by Detroit's defense. Unfortunately, Boyle and the Lions' offense couldn't punch it into the end zone from there.
Injury report: Fullback Jason Cabinda left the game late in the first quarter with a knee injury suffered while making a catch along the left sideline. He was down on the turf a bit before walking off slowly to the medical tent and then to the Lions locker room. He did not return.
Backup tight end Shane Zylstra was carted off the field midway through the third quarter with a knee injury and did not return.
Next up: at Seattle (5-9)