Todd Gurley II knew what he could and could not do.
But when he grabbed a handoff on 1st-and-goal from the 9-yard line, he exploded through the line of scrimmage and a Detroit Lions defender before falling into the end zone.
The problem: He tried not to score. The Atlanta Falcons wanted to drain more time from the clock, which stopped with 1:04 remaining in Sunday’s fourth quarter as Gurley dropped to the turf.
“I was mad as hell,” Gurley, a first-year Falcon, said during the postgame press conference. “I was trying not to (score). My momentum took me in.”
After the touchdown, the Lions possessed just enough time to drive down the field and win the game as time expired.
It ended as another blown-lead loss for Atlanta, the third of its season. And all the gaffes have been different.
There was a misplayed onside kick against Dallas, a defensive letdown to a backup quarterback against Chicago and now an accidental touchdown.
“When you talk about situational football, it’s never really the same issue,” interim head coach Raheem Morris said on a Zoom press conference Monday. “If it was the same issue, then there would be a problem. It’s different issues that pop up in different situations that we’ve got to get better at.”
With the Week 2 and Week 3 meltdowns, the Falcons became the first team to squander multiple 15-point leads in the same season. Morris insists it hasn’t gotten to his squad.
“There’s no psychological issues,” he said. “There’s no excuses. We have not played well in some of the fourth quarters — even our win ... We’ve got to find ways to finish games better and play better at those moments. And usually in those moments is when those big-time players step up and make plays. I’m fully expecting them to.”
Gurley is a part of that big-time player group.
A few snaps before the accidental touchdown, Matt Ryan reiterated the plan to Gurley and the rest of the offense — “Don’t score. Don’t score. Don’t score. Get the first, get down.”
Both Morris and Ryan say they regret not kneeling the ball in that situation. But with a defensive stop of Detroit in the last minute, the Falcons still could’ve won the game.
Matthew Stafford and Co. flew down the field via a few long passes before connecting for the game-winner.
“As players, there’s lots of times throughout that game that we could’ve made plays to make it a different outcome,” Ryan said. “That’s what we have to focus on. We have to focus on doing our job and making plays when we get the chances.”
With the way this season is going, Atlanta will probably get more opportunities at similar late-game situations.
Gurley said he takes responsibility for his mistake Sunday but will keep his chin up.
And maybe, next time, the ball out of the end zone.