Recap: Lions beat Falcons 23-22 on miraculous final drive

Detroit News

Nolan Bianchi
| The Detroit News

Game summary

The Detroit Lions travelled the entire length of the field in 1:04 and beat the Atlanta Falcons 23-22 with an 11-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson on the game’s final play.

Todd Gurley punched in a touchdown to take the lead late in the fourth quarter instead of going down inside the 5-yard-line and allowing the Falcons to bleed the clock.

The Lions spiked the ball at the 11 with 3 seconds left after a 29-yard throw to Kenny Golladay gave the Lions a chance.

Final leaders


DET – Matthew Stafford: 25/36, 340 yds., TD

ATL – Matt Ryan: 31/42, 338 yds., TD


DET – Adrian Peterson: 11 atts., 29 yds.

ATL – Todd Gurley: 23 atts., 63 yds., 2 TD


DET – Kenny Golladay: 6 recs., 114 yds.

ATL. – Julio Jones: 8 recs., 97 yds.

Lions beat Falcons on miraculous final drive

Detroit will get it at the 25 with 1:04 remaining and no timeouts. The Lions trail Atlanta 22-16 after Todd Gurley’s rushing touchdown.

Kenny Golladay can’t get his feet in-bounds on the first-down throw, T.J. Hockenson hauls in. asecond-down throw, but doesn’t get out of bounds for some reason. What an unacceptable mistake by the second-year tight end. 

A huge chunk of time comes off the clock while the Lions rush to the line to spike it. 33 seconds left.

Stafford throws complete to Danny Amendola over the middle for a 22-yard gain that puts the Lions at the Atlanta 40.

Golladay hauls in a throw that’s good for 32 yards to the 8-yard-line. Everyone hurries to the line, Kerryon Johnson gets run over by a Falcons defender, a flag is thrown. 

They are now reviewing the previous play to make sure Golladay caught it. If the play holds, the Lions will have 3 seconds on the clock.

The play stands. Stafford immediately spikes it. There is 2 seconds left, time for one last play from the 11.

Stafford escapes pressure, finds Hockenson, and hits the tight end for a touchdown that ties the game at 22. Detroit will win if Matt Prater converts the PAT.

There was a penalty after the touchdown on the Lions, making it a 48-yard PAT try.


Falcons take 22-16 lead with 1:04 to go

The Falcons now will get it at the 24 after the kickoff return by Brandon Powell. The Lions lead 16-14 with 3:09 left in the game. Atlanta has one timeout.

Atlanta comes out firing. Matt Ryan hits Russell Gage for 6 yards, then goes back to him on second down for a gain of 9 to the 39.

Ryan hits Todd Gurley on the next play, a gain of 8 that’ll bring up second-and-2 after the two-minute warning.

Two-minute warning

Gage makes a one-handed catch while falling to the ground to keep the Falcons moving forward with a 16-yard catch to the Detroit 37. 

Ryan goes back to Gage again for a consecutive 16-yard completion to the Detroit 21. 

Timeout #1 Detroit (1:25 4th)

Todd Gurley gets to the 12 on a first-down carry that’s good for 8 yards. Gurley is stopped after a gain of 1, bringing up third-and-1.

Timeout #2 Detroit (1:18 4th)

Detroit’s defensive line looks like Swiss cheese, as Gurley picks up the first down at the 10-yard-line. The Lions are out of timeouts.

Timeout #3 Detroit (1:12 4th)

Gurley appears to hold up before the goal line on the next play, but he accidentally gets into the end zone. It’s a Falcons touchdown. The Falcons could have bled the clock and kicked an easy field goal to win.

The Falcons convert a two-point attempt.

Falcons 22, Lions 16 (1:04 4th)

Lions take 16-14 lead with 3:16 to go

The Lions take over at the 32 after Trey Flowers recovers the fumble. 

D’Andre Swift is destroyed for a 5-yard loss on first down. He catches a pass that loses 2 yards on second down. Matthew Stafford takes off for a gain of 8 on third down. 

Matt Prater gives the Lions a 2-point lead with a 49-yard field goal.

Lions 16, Falcons 14 (3:16 4th)

Lions ‘D’ gets crucial fourth-quarter turnover

The Falcons take over at their own 36 after the missed field goal. They lead the Lions, 14-13, with 7:32 to go.

Matt Ryan opens the drive with a 12-yard throw to Calvin Ridley.

Todd Gurley is dropped for a loss of 3 on the next play, then gets those 3 yards back on second down. Romeo Okwara barrels off the edge and swats the ball from Ryan’s hand, and Trey Flowers recovers the fumble at the Atlanta 32.

The Lions have new life.

Falcons 14, Lions 13 (5:29 4th)

Lions struggle down the field, miss field goal to take lead

The Lions take over at the 13 after the huge stop on fourth down. They trail 14-13 with 11:57 to go in the game.

D’Andre Swift picks up 3 on a first-down carry. Kenny Golladay makes a terrific catch near the sideline on third down for a gain of 16.

The Falcons challenge the play, as they believe Golladay had a foot land out of bounds.

But the play is upheld. Atlanta has been charged a timeout, and Detroit will have it first-and-10 at the 32.

Timeout #2 Atlanta (10:42 4th)

Matthew Stafford escapes pressure and throws a strike to Marvin Jones for a 15-yard gain. Lions are moving now, and have a first down at their own 49.

Stafford gets it to Jones quickly on the next play, a 6-yard pickup. Adrian Peterson comes up just shy of the line to gain on gain on second down. Detroit. is ultra predictable on third down, giving it to Peterson again, and he’s wrapped up for a loss of 1. 

Detroit challenges that Atlanta had too many men on the field on third down after faking a fake punt. Yes, you read that correctly. 

And Detroit wins the challenge. Wow. The Lions will get five free yards for the penalty and a first down at the Falcons 37.

Swift gets 2 yards on first down, but can’t hold onto a swing pass on second down. It’s third-and-8. The Lions get to the line quickly and complete a 7-yard pass.

Matt Prater misses the 48-yard field goal. Lions still trail.

Falcons 14, Lions 13 (7:32 4th)

Lions get big fourth-down stop deep in own territory

The Falcons take over at the 6 after Jack Fox’s booming punt.

Todd Gurley gets 5 yards on first down and 13 on the next play, giving Atlanta a first down at the Atlanta 24.

Then it’s Julio Jones making a play, and this one’s good for 17 yards to the 41, plus another first down.

Gurley gets 2 on first down. Ryan finds Hayden Hurst on an out-route, and the two connect for what looked to be 7 yards, but they give him 8 to move the chains. He didn’t look anywhere near the line to gain.

Ryan can’t find his receiver on first down but hits Jones on second down, an 8-yard gain to the Detroit 41. Ryan goes back to Jones on third down for a gain of 5. The last play of the third quarter gives Atlanta a first down at the 36.

END 3RD: Falcons 14, Lions 13

A holding penalty on first down backs the Falcons up 10 yards, bringing up first-and-20 at the Detroit 46. 

Jones is wide open again on the next play. Atlanta is crushing Detroit’s zone right now. He picks up 28 yards and a first down at the 18.

A false start makes it first-and-15.

Gurley pushes ahead for 9 yards on first down. Amani Oruwariye makes a great play to meet Gurley at the edge on second down and drops him for a loss of 6, bringing up a massive third-and-12 situation.

The third-down throw is complete to Ridley for a gain of 7 yards. The Falcons will go for it on fourth-and-5: The Lions get good pressure and Trey Flowers breaks up a screen pass to Ito Smith. Great stop by the Lions defense.

Falcons 14, Lions 13 (11:57 4th)

Miscommunication ends Lions drive early

The Lions take over at the 31, due to a penalty on the Falcons during the preceding punt return. Detroit trails Atlanta 14-13 with 4:47 to go in the third quarter.

Matthew Stafford is forced to get rid of the ball quickly on first down, resulting in an incompletion. Danny Amendola catches a 3-yard pass on second down.

Timeout #1 Atlanta (4:07 3rd)

Some miscommunication between Marvin Jones and T.J. Hockenson results in a third-down incompletion.

Jack Fox’s punt is downed at the 6 of Atlanta.

Falcons 14, Lions 13 (3:50 3rd)

Lions ‘D’ gets stop to open third quarter

Russell Gage, who somehow is back in the game after suffering what appeared to be a pretty serious knee injury in the opening frame, gets open for a 9-yard catch on first down. Todd Gurley gets dropped for a gain of 2 on second down, which moves the chains.

Ryan runs play-action on the next play, doesn’t have anybody downfield, and misfires on the dump-off to Gurley, incomplete. Julio Jones catches a 5-yard pass on second down. Romeo Okwara grabs Ryan on third down to force a sack and a loss of 4 yards.

Good start to the half by the Lions defense.

Jamal Agnew loses a yard on the punt return, going down at the 26.

Falcons 14, Lions 13 (4:47 3rd)

Lions add another field goal to start third quarter

The Lions get it to start the second half. Jamal Agnew does not make a good return on the kickoff, taking it to the 14.

D’Andre Swift is dropped on first down for a gain of only 2. Matthew Stafford throws an absolute laser over the middle to Marvin Jones for a gain of 16 yards to the Detroit 32.

Keanu Neal flies thorugh the line immediately on the next play and tackles Stafford for a loss of 9. Swift takes a screen pass on the next play for 7 yards. Stafford has all day to throw before eventually throwing to Kenny Golladay, who makes an unbelievably tough catch while leaping backwards and getting hit by a Falcons defensive back.

It’s first-and-10 at the Atlanta 40.

Swift explodes through the line on the next play for a 24-yard gain, but it’s called back due to a holding penalty on Jesse James. Tough. It’s now first-and-20 at midfield.

Stafford hits Swift over the middle on the next play for a 14-yard reception to bring up second-and-6. Adrian Peterson rushes for 7 yards on the next play to move the chains, and the Lions have it first-and-10 at the Atlanta 29.

Peterson picks up 3 more on the next play. He predictably gets it again on second down, this time only getting 2. It’s third-and-5: Stafford is sacked for a loss of 9. 

Matt Prater’s 51-yard field goal is good. The Lions trail by 1.

Falcons 14, Lions 13 (7:34 3rd)

Lions get 3 points back before halftime

The Lions get it at their own 25, down 7, with 0:29 to go in the half and two timeouts. 

T.J. Hockenson hauls in a 10-yard pass on first down that’ll move the chains.

Timeout #2 Detroit

Kenny Golladay makes a big-time play over the middle on the next play for a gain of 18. Golladay appeared to be nursing his shoulder after the play.

Timeout #3 Detroit 

Matthew Stafford is flagged for a false start on the next play, but it should have been an offsides penalty on the Flacons. Nevertheless, first-and-15 at the 48.

Stafford hits Marvin Jones for a 20-yard gain to the Falcons 32. The Lions run to the line and spike it with four seconds left in the half.

Matt Prater hits a 50-yard attempt with time expiring to add some points back.

END 2ND: Falcons 14, Lions 10 

Falcons take 14-7 lead before halftime

The Falcons take over at their own 2. An unsporstmanlike penalty on the Falcons after the fourth-down play backed them up 2 yards.

Reggie Ragland forces an incompletion near the sideline to Hayden Hurst. Todd Gurley is stopped after a gain of 2 on second down. Calvin Ridley makes a falling catch on third down to haul in an inside fade that’s good for 27 yards, plus a Falcons first down at the 31.

Brian Hill is dropped for a 1-yard gain on first down. The Lions get to the quarterback on second down, but he escapes the arms of a couple Lions defenders and flips the ball to Hill for an 11-yard gain on a broken play. Brutal play for Detroit.

Hill rushes for 2 yards on first down. Ryan has time to throw on the next play and Hurst finds a hole in the zone as the two connect for a 17-yard pickup to the Detroit 38.

Two-minute warning

Gurley is dropped for a 2-yard gain on first down. Brandon Powell catches a 4-yard pass on second down, setting up third-and-3. Julio Jones gets open over the middle on third down to move the chains on a 13-yard gain. Easy money.

Back to Julio on the next play, and the Falcons have it first-and-goal at the 5.

Todd Gurley gets 2 yards on first down. Ridley gets wide open in the end zone on the next two plays. He can’t get his feet in-bounds on the first, but easily pulls in the second as Atlanta takes a lead.

Falcons 14, Lions 7 (0:29 2nd)

Lions turn ball over on downs inside Falcons 5-yard-line

The Lions look to answer Atlanta’s game-tying touchdown. They take over at the 21 with 10:47 to go in the first half.

Matthew Stafford throws to Kenny Golladay for a gain of 13 on first down.

Adrian Peterson rushes for 7 yards on first down, and is then stopped for no gain on second down. 

Stafford hits a wide-open Danny Amendola down the sideline for a big gain down to the 26, and after a roughing the passer penalty on Atlanta, the Lions have it first-and-10 at 11. 

D’Andre Swift loses 2 on first down on a direct snap, and Stafford hits him on second down for a gain of only 1. It’s third-and-11. T.J. Hockenson catches a pass on third down but goes down 1 yard short of the line to gain. 

Peterson gets absolutely smacked on fourth-and-1 and goes absolutely nowhere. Turnover on downs.

Lions 7, Falcons 7 (6:17 2nd)

Falcons tie game at 7 on long drive in second

The Falcons are still looking for their first points of the game. They take over at their own 11, down 7-0, with 1:43 to go in the opening frame.

Hayden Hurst catches a pass and hurdles a defender on his way to a 16-yard gain on first down.

Julio Jones makes his first catch of the day on the next play, going down after a gain of 8 to the 35. Matt Ryan’s second-down throw hits off three different legs/feet, and pops up to Hurst. The play is originally called incomplete, but it looks like Hurst might have made the play. Atlanta will challenge.

The play has been reversed, and Hurst is credited with a 7-yard reception that’s good for a first down. Unfortunate for Detroit’s defense, but it’s the right call.

Ryan’s first-down throw to Calvin Ridley falls incomplete. He hits Brian Hill on second down on a 9-yard out route. That’ll bring the first quarter to a close.

END 1ST: Lions 7, Falcons 0

Detroit drops the ballcarrier for a loss of 1 on third down, but the Falcons will go for it on fourth-and-2. Hurst gets wide open near the sideline and hauls in a 9-yard reception that’s good for 9 yards to the 41.

Ridley makes an incredible catch at the sideline on the next play, a 22-yard pickup. It’s first-and-10 at the 19.

Ryan’s throw to Hurst on the next play is just beyond the tight end’s reach, but Jayron Kearse is flagged for defensive holding. It’ll be first-and-10 at the 17.

Gurley tries to bounce it outside but can’t find the edge and is pushed out of bounds for no gain. The Falcons have a touchdown wiped off the board on second down for offensive pass interference. 

It’s now second-and-20 at the 27. Ryan dumps it off to Gurley for an 11-yard gain. Jeff Okudah is called for pass interference on a throw to the end zone on third down.

Not a great call, as it looked like some good ol’ fashioned airtight coverage. It’s first-and-goal at the 1.

Todd Gurley is met at the line by Da’Shawn Hand for no gain. What a great play for the Lions’ front. Gurley gets into the end zone on third down from a yard out.

Lions 7, Falcons 7 (10:55 2nd)

Third-down drop results in quick drive for Lions

Adrian Peterson catches a quick pass from Matthew Stafford on first down that’s only good for a gain of 1. Peterson gets wrapped for no gain on second down. Danny Amendola has a rare drop over the middle on third down.

Jack Fox’s punt is fair caught at the Atlanta 11.

Lions 7, Falcons 0 (1:43 1st)

Lions use intense pass rush to force second straight three-and-out

The Falcons look to answer D’Andre Swift’s touchdown, taking over at the 18. 

Todd Gurley rushes for 2 yards on first down. Matt Ryan misses on an out-route on second down. Jarrad Davis absolutely runs over the O-lineman in his path and forces Ryan to throw a bad pass on third down.

Jamal Agnew calls for a fair catch at Detroit’s 37.

Lions 7, Falcons 0 (3:21 1st)

Lions take 7-0 lead on Swift’s touchdown run

The Lions take over at the 26 after forcing a three-and-out. It’s their second drive of the game after going three-and-out on their first drive.

Matthew Stafford throws an absolute dart to T.J. Hockenson over the middle on first down, a 16-yard pickup that’ll give the Lions a first down at the 45 of Detroit.

Stafford looks for a deep ball to Marvin Hall on the next play, but it’s a touch overthrown. Adrian Peterson only gets a yard on second down. Stafford has good protection on third down, steps up, and hits Marvin Jones over the middle for a 23-yard gain as the Lions are firmly in Falcons territory.

D’Andre Swift gets his first carry of the game, taking the first-down carry to the 23 for a pickup of 8. He gets it again on second down, spinning off of tackles and reaching the 10-yard-line. That’s a gain of 13.

Swift gets his third straight carry, this time only getting 3. Stafford’s throw to Jones is broken up.

A.J. Terrell gets flagged for roughing the passer on third down. Not sure why, as he sacked Stafford, but probably for some helmet-to-helmet contact.

Nevertheless, Swift gets it on the next play, and takes it in for a 3-yard touchdown run.

Lions 7, Falcons 0 (4:16 1st)

Lions ‘D’ bringing the roar early against Falcons

The Falcons take over in a scoreless game at the 20. 10:44 to go here in the first quarter.

Todd Gurley takes a first-down carry for 2 yards. Matt Ryan throws a swing pass to Russell Gage on second down, and he’s wrapped up for a loss of 2 by Reggie Ragland. Gage appeared to suffer an ankle or knee injury on the play, and folks, it was not pretty.

Injury alert: Falcons WR Russell Gage was hurt on the play.

The Lions get some pressure and force Ryan to just dump it off, leading to a gain of only 7 yards. The Falcons will give it back.

The punt is fair caught by Jamal Agnew at the Lions 26.

Lions 0, Falcons 0 (8:56 1st)

Lions go three-and-out on first offensive drive

Adrian Peterson picks up 7 yards on first down, and is then dropped for a loss of 1 on second down. Matthew Stafford’s pass to Isaac Nauta picks up 3, which is not enough to move the sticks.

Jack Fox’s punt goes for a touchback.

Lions 0, Falcons 0 (10:45 1st)

Lions ‘D’ gets stop on opening drive

The Lions win the coin toss and choose to defer. The Atlanta Falcons will take over at the 18.

Todd Gurley gets it on first down, can’t find the edge, and goes out of bounds after a gain of only 1. Matt Ryan has a defender in his face on the second-down throw, and has to throw it away.

Hayden Hurst gets open on third-and-9 and picks up 12 yards to move the chains.

Gurley gets to the 35 with a 4-yard pickup on first down, then gains another yard on second down.

Injury alert: Falcons C Alex Mack was hurt on the play.

Ryan gets pressured on third-and-5, and Jeff Okudah makes a nice play to make sure his pass to Russell Gage falls incomplete.

Jamal Agnew returns the punt to the 24.

Lions 0, Falcons 0 (12:31 1st)


The Detroit Lions will try to make it two wins in a row when they meet the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at 1 p.m. You can follow the action here with live updates throughout the game by Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News.

Lions at Falcons

Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

TV/radio: Fox/760

Records: Lions 2-3, Falcons 1-5

Line: Falcons by 1

More coverage 

Five things to watch: Lions at Falcons

Lions activate Ford, Scarbrough off IR as part of a batch of weekend transactions

Falcons’ Raheem Morris swimming against tide as Black NFL coach

Next time he breaks free, expect Lions’ D’Andre Swift to keep his foot on the gas

Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley could be double trouble for Lions’ defense

Detroit News scouting report: Lions at Falcons

Detroit News predictions: Lions vs. Falcons

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