Generally, when you score a touchdown in the NFL, it is a cause for celebration.
But on Sunday, Atlanta Falcons RB Todd Gurley scored a touchdown that will haunt him for the rest of his life. (Though I hope he is able to put it behind him and have a great career)
The touchdown I am referring to, of course, came with just over a minute to play in Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.
The Lions held a 16-14 lead but the Falcons had just picked up a first down and with the Lions not having any timeouts remaining, all Atlanta had to do was run the clock down and kick a short field goal to win the game. In fact, the only way the Lions would have any chance at all to come back and win would be if the Falcons scored a TD to take the lead.
That is when the craziness happened.
Gurley took a handoff from Falcons QB Matt Ryan and instead of going down well short of the goal line, he ended up going just a hair too far, and by the time he realized it, it was too late and he had crossed the plane for a touchdown. The score (and then the 2-point conversion that followed) put the Falcons up 22-16 with 1:04 left on the clock.
As you know by now, 1:04 was just enough time for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to lead the offense down the field for the game-winning touchdown.
Following the game, Lions head coach Matt Patricia explained that what had happened was an exact situation that he and his coaches have gone over in practice. Patricia even said he has a ‘one-word call’ for that exact situation.
So really, Detroit’s only hope was to block the field goal or just let the Falcons score a touchdown. As short as the field goal was going to be, the latter option made much more sense. So Patricia called it, and Gurley easily broke through the line at the snap. Then, Lions safety Will Harris grabbed him, as if to tackle him, and influenced him toward the goal line. Before Gurley realized what was going on, it was too late.
“It goes all the way back to the Super Bowl [in 2011],” Patricia said, on his way to the airport. “It’s something that we’ve always had in our defense.”
Patricia’s reference point there was from his time as Patriots defensive coordinator in Super Bowl XLVI. The play was a second-and-goal with less than a minute left, and the New England defenders let Ahmad Bradshaw go through the line, then influenced him into the end zone. By the time Bradshaw figured it out—as was the case with Gurley—it was too late and he’d scored.
In that case, the Giants took the lead 21–17, and the Patriots couldn’t come back with the 53 seconds they had left. In this case, the Lions did come back.
For as much as Matt Patricia is ripped for his coaching abilities, he can chalk this one up a big victory and maybe even a turning point for the 2020 season.