| The Detroit News
When is scoring a touchdown a mistake? When it gives Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford enough time to orchestrate a game-winning drive.
Without Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley stumbling into the end zone from 10 yards out with 1:04 remaining, the Lions almost certainly lose on Sunday and their season is all but over.
Of course, that’s not what happened.
Gurley burst through the line, essentially untouched until he was wrapped up by second-year safety Will Harris, who recognized his mistake and let Gurley intentionally slip from his grasp.
“Yeah, I mean, it was great situational defense, great situational defense awareness right there,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “I thought it was perfect. The defense, give the players credit. They executed an outstanding job and very situationally aware right there. It was honestly exactly how you want it, so it was a great job by them.”
The veteran back tried to hold up at the last moment but tripped. The nose of the football just inched over the goal line as he went to the ground, while Detroit defenders amusingly celebrated.
“I was mad as hell,” Gurley said. “I was trying not to (score), but my momentum took me in. …That’s the point of going down, not being able to put the ball in the hands of somebody especially like Matt Stafford. He’s known for comebacks. Once again, he showed why he’s an elite quarterback in this league.”
Down six after the Falcons converted a 2-point conversion, Stafford led the Lions on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that was capped when the quarterback found T.J. Hockenson for the tying score as time expired. Matt Prater’s extra point gave Detroit the improbable win.
It marked the 30th fourth-quarter comeback of Stafford’s career, tying him with close friend and Sunday’s opposing quarterback, Matt Ryan.
After the game, Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris confirmed he told his offense the goal was to not score on the play. Gurley said it was the first time he’d not gotten down in that situation during in his career, including a previous situation against the Lions.
“It’s kind of crazy, the last time I played Detroit I went down and this time I end up scoring,” Gurley said. “It’s like what goes around comes around. It’s one of those unfortunate situations.”
In that 2018 matchup, as a member of the L.A. Rams, Gurley stopped short of the goal line on a 36-yard run, killing an extra minute of game clock and forcing the Lions to use a timeout before scoring two plays later in a 30-16 victory.
Patricia also reminded reporters that allowing the opponent to score doesn’t always work out the way it’s planned.
“Unfortunately, I’ve been in that situation before in a very large game and it didn’t work out the way we wanted it to, so I’m glad this one did,” Patricia said.
That came in the 2012 Super Bowl, when the New England Patriots allowed the New York Giants to score the go-ahead touchdown with 57 seconds remaining. Unlike Sunday, the Patriots weren’t able to respond, losing the game, 21-17.