Todd Gurley was “mad as hell.” He knew he should have gotten down. He should have stopped. He wanted to. He planned to. But he just couldn’t stop short of the goal line on a 10-yard run against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
If he didn’t score, the Atlanta Falcons could have run out the clock and kicked a short field goal to beat the Detroit Lions. Instead, he barely fell into the end zone. It gave Detroit a chance, and the Lions ended up beating the Falcons 23-22 on the final play of the game.
Afterward, Gurley said he was doing everything he could to not get in.
“I was trying not to. My momentum took me in,” Gurley said. “It’s kind of crazy, the last time I played Detroit, I went down. This time I end up scoring. It’s like what goes around, comes around.
“It’s one of them unfortunate situations. I’ve been, I mean, plenty of those situations my rookie year, six or seven, and I’ve always got down. It was an unfortunate one right there.”
Gurley said he takes responsibility for what happened and should have fallen down to keep the ball out of Matthew Stafford’s hands. Gurley said it came up in the huddle a couple of plays before his 10-yard touchdown and he also knew from his own prior experience. He said they never discussed taking a knee and that he tried to go down but didn’t.
“It was talked about right at that moment,” Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris said. “We knew that was kind of going to be their ideal choice for us to get in the end zone so they could have a chance to go down there and score.
“So we wanted to take the knee on the 1, and he obviously tried and he fell into the end zone at the last second there, getting tripped up a little bit.”
It appeared close, and Detroit linebacker Jamie Collins signaled touchdown to make clear Gurley got in while linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin pointed toward the end zone. Lions coach Matt Patricia said his team had “great situational defensive awareness right there.” The Lions largely let Gurley break through the line to score, although safety Will Harris did try to wrap him up at the 3-yard line.
Gurley broke that tackle, tried to fall short and almost did, although the ball broke the plane, giving Atlanta the touchdown to take the lead it would eventually relinquish.
“I should have went down,” Gurley said. “… I shouldn’t have scored. God dammit.”
Patricia said the result was “exactly how you want it, so it was a great job by them,” meaning his players. Some of the other players on the Lions, though, were concerned they weren’t going to get one more shot to win once Atlanta reached field goal range on the Falcons’ final drive.
“I had my helmet on, thinking the game was probably going to be over,” Stafford said. “They let him score, gave us a chance and that’s all we needed. Proud of those guys for making that play.”
Stafford then got the ball back, drove 75 yards in 64 seconds, capped with an 11-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson to tie the game with no time left. Then, after a Danny Amendola penalty pushed the extra point back 15 yards, Matt Prater made the kick to give Detroit the 23-22 win.
Gurley’s play comes one day after almost the exact same thing happened in the Penn State-Indiana game. Unlike in the Lions-Falcons game, Penn State had the lead, but running back Devyn Ford fell into the end zone instead of on the 1-yard line to extend the lead to 28-20 and leave time on the clock. Indiana then tied the game with a 75-yard touchdown drive and 2-point conversion, and won in overtime.
In Sunday’s situation, if Gurley had fallen, the Falcons could have run down the clock on the 1-yard line to give Younghoe Koo a chance at a winning field goal at the buzzer. Instead, the Falcons scored and converted a 2-point conversion to take a 22-16 lead with 1:04 left.
“We were trying to get to the 1,” Morris said. “We were trying to get down to the 1 and stop, get down right there.”
The Falcons have now lost fourth-quarter leads in three of their six losses this year.
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