Chiefs' win over Falcons adds glitz to AFC West showdown
Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) breaks the tackle of Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) after Berry made an interception during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Atlanta. Berry scored a touchdown on the play(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
ATLANTA (AP) The Kansas City Chiefs beat the first-place Atlanta Falcons to add even more shine to their upcoming battle for first place in the AFC West.
A big game against the Raiders is coming in only four days, but for Eric Berry it will be tough to top the big-game feel of the Chiefs' 29-28 win over the Falcons or Sunday. It will be even more difficult for him to top his personal role in the win.
After returning an interception 37 yards for a touchdown late in the first half, Berry picked off another pass from Matt Ryan on a 2-point conversion, and his 99-yard return gave the Chiefs the lead.
Article continues below ...
The Chiefs found another creative way to score when Albert Wilson took the direct snap on a fake punt and ran 55 yards for a third-quarter touchdown.
It was an emotional homecoming for Berry, who grew up in suburban Atlanta. He finally played an NFL game in the city where he was treated after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma near the end of the 2014 season.
''The last time I came home during the season it was to get chemotherapy,'' Berry said. ''This time it was actually to play the game. I was just thankful for the opportunity.''
Berry said he shed tears before, during and after the game. He presented the ball to his mother, Carol, after the first interception ''and told her I'd be back.''
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said Berry's eight points ''made the difference.''
''Eric is the heart and soul of this team,'' Smith said. ''I think he's the embodiment of what we're about, and that's selflessness and hard work, giving it up for the guy next to you. That's all Eric talks about and it's real.''
The Chiefs (9-3) made Thursday night's home game against the Raiders a battle for the division lead by taking back-to-back dramatic wins over Denver and Atlanta.
The NFC South-leading Falcons (7-5) took a 28-27 lead on Ryan's 5-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson with 4:32 remaining. Having failed on a 2-point play following a 1-yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman early in the fourth quarter, the Falcons tried again for 2 points. Berry delivered the decisive play of the game when he picked off Ryan's pass for tight end Austin Hooper.
Ryan called the pass ''a poor play on my part'' and ''a decision that I can't make. I've got to check the ball down or move on. I made a mistake there.''
Here are some more things to know about the Chiefs' win over the Falcons:
INJURY REPORT: Atlanta Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews did not return after leaving the game with a left knee sprain late in the first half. He was escorted to the locker room at the 2-minute warning and did not come out for the start of the second half. Tom Compton replaced Matthews at left tackle.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Matthews ''was certainly trying'' to return to the game ''so hopefully it won't be a long-term issue with him.'' Quinn said wide receiver Julio Jones ''got banged up'' with an undisclosed lower body injury but returned to the game.
Reid said the Chiefs had no new injuries. Kansas City held out receiver Jeremy Maclin (groin) and cornerback Phillip Gaines (knee).
CLEAN GAME: Smith completed 21 of 25 passes for 270 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass to running back Spencer Ware, with no interceptions. Smith's ability to avoid turnovers has helped Kansas City lead the NFL in turnover differential.
BRYANT BOOMS 59-YARDER: Matt Bryant's 59-yard field goal to end the first half was the second-longest of his career. He kicked a 62-yarder for Tampa Bay in 2006.
The Chiefs weren't sure the 41-year-old Bryant had enough leg for the kick. They placed speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the back of the end zone for a possible return.
Bryant also kicked two 22-yard field goals in the first half.
PEACHY RETURN: Berry wasn't the only Chiefs player with Georgia roots to enjoy a big game. Wilson, who played at Georgia State, had four catches for 48 yards in addition to his touchdown on the fake punt. Hill, who had five catches for 53 yards and two carries for 19 yards, was born in Pearson, Georgia. Justin Houston, who had a sack, and Ramik Wilson, who shared the team lead with nine tackles, played at the University of Georgia.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Chiefs planned to study film of the win on the plane ride back to Kansas City and then quickly shift focus to preparing for Thursday night's game against the Raiders.
''Everything is sped up,'' Smith said. ''It's a division game and will be a big, big atmosphere.''
The Falcons led the Buccaneers, who were playing late San Diego Sunday afternoon, by a half game in the NFC South. Atlanta travels to Los Angeles to play the Rams next Sunday.
For more NFL coverage: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL