ATLANTA — Just when it seemed the Detroit Lions could do no wrong, the magic wore off.
Tim Boyle threw a game-ending interception with 33 seconds left as the Lions’ late rally fell short Sunday in a 20-16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Boyle, making his second career start in place of Jared Goff, led the Lions on four scoring drives of more than 7 minutes, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin forced a late fumble to give the Lions a chance at their third win in four games.
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The Lions started their final possession at the Atlanta 37-yard line with 2:18 to play.
They picked up two first downs and had a first-and-goal at the 9-yard line when Boyle forced a pass to Kalif Raymond between three defenders.
Foyesade Oluokun intercepted the ball at the 1-yard line and slid down in celebration a few yards later.
As Boyle walked dejectedly off the field, he was consoled by several Lions teammates.
Boyle finished 24 of 34 passing for 187 yards and was significantly better Sunday than he was in his first career start last month against the Cleveland Browns. In that game, Boyle completed 15 of 23 passes for 77 yards with two interceptions.
With Goff in COVID-19 protocols, the Lions came out aggressive, throwing on their first four plays from scrimmage before resorting to a ball-control offense.
The Falcons (7-8) scored on four straight possessions to take a 20-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, when the Lions mounted a 17-play, 66-yard field goal drive that lasted 10 minutes, 26 seconds.
Dan Campbell, one of the NFL’s most aggressive coaches, opted to kick a 26-yard field goal on fourth-and-5 from the Atlanta 8-yard line with under 3 minutes to play.
The Falcons needed one first down to run the clock out on the ensuing possession, but Reeves-Maybin forced a Russell Gage fumble on a third-and-7 bubble screen that Dean Marlowe recovered for the Lions.
Amon-Ra St. Brown had 91 yards receiving on nine catches and scored the Lions’ only touchdown on a 20-yard pass late in the first half.
Matt Ryan finished 18 of 24 passes for 215 yards with one touchdown, a 12-yard pass to Hayden Hurst with 12:04 to play, and Kyle Pitts had six catches for 102 yards for the Falcons (7-8).
The Lions fell to 2-12-1 with the loss, but remain in possession of the second pick in next year’s draft, pending the outcome of Sunday’s Jacksonville Jaguars-New York Jets game.
The Lions close the season with games next week on the road against the Seattle Seahawks and home against the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 9.
The Lions and Falcons have played four straight close games, with their three previous meetings ending on the last play of the game.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions can't cash in late, lose in Atlanta, 20-16