CHICAGO -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke sat in front of his locker Sunday afternoon, a boot on his left foot.

It was an ankle injury, the same one that had limited him in practice Wednesday and Thursday and eventually forced him from Sunday's 37-17 loss to the Chicago Bears. And it's one that at least leaves his status in question for the regular-season finale against the New Orleans Saints -- a must-win game for Atlanta if it wants to have any chance at the postseason.

"We just got to go in there and see who is healthy tomorrow," Falcons coach Arthur Smith said.

Smith said he pulled Heinicke late in the blowout for former starter Desmond Ridder -- not because of the score, but because of the ankle. Heinicke had a rough outing before leaving the game, completing 10 of 29 passes for 163 yards, a touchdown and 3 interceptions. He also ran four times for 46 yards and a touchdown.

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Smith said it was clear Heinicke was playing through something. When asked if he would be sticking with Heinicke as the starter, Smith said he wanted to know the health of his quarterback first.

Heinicke said adrenaline took over for the majority of the game and he wasn't feeling the ankle too much. Mostly, he said he just has "to play better."

As the game wore on, the cold combined with his ankle being stepped on started to cause more issues.

Heinicke has completed 54.4% of his passes for 890 yards, 5 touchdowns and 4 interceptions -- with a 20.8% off-target rate. Ridder has completed 63.4% of his passes for 2,545 yards, 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 15.4% off-target rate. He also has 11 fumbles, part of the reason he was benched twice this season.

Whether it's Heinicke or Ridder, Atlanta recognizes its situation: Win and need help. The team's path to an NFC South title is to beat the Saints next weekend and have the Carolina Panthers -- who clinched the league's worst record Sunday -- beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sunday's loss dropped Atlanta to 7-9, clinching a sixth straight losing season -- the franchise's longest streak of futility since it went under .500 eight straight seasons from 1983-90.

The loss also extinguished any wild-card possibilities for Atlanta.

As bad as Sunday was for the Falcons -- they allowed 432 yards to Chicago and the offense converted 31% of their third-down chances and completed 39.4% of their passes -- they were still holding onto postseason hopes because of the yearlong struggles throughout the NFC South.

"We still got life," edge rusher Lorenzo Carter said. "As depressing as it is, as gloomy as it may feel, we still got a lot to play for."