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Detroit Lions strategize their way into game-winning score to beat Atlanta 23-22

Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson catches a touchdown pass with no time left on the clock at the end of the game against the Falcons on Sunday in Atlanta. The Lions won 23-22. (AP photo)

ATLANTA — Todd Gurley saw a tantalizing path to the end zone and couldn’t help himself.

He tried to fall down, but it was too late.

Gurley landed on the goal line for a touchdown that, as it turned out, led to another stunning loss for the Atlanta Falcons.

Detroit let Gurley score with just over a minute remaining to get the ball back, giving Matthew Stafford enough time to drive the Lions to the winning TD as time expired Sunday.

Stafford connected with T.J. Hockenson on an ad-libbed, 11-yard scoring pass and Matt Prater, pushed back by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, nailed a 48-yard extra point kick to give the Lions a 23-22 victory.

Detroit Lions safety C.J. Moore throws a signed jersey into the stands after a game against the Falcons on Sunday in Atlanta. The Detroit Lions won 23-22. (AP photo)

“Just an amazing game,” Detroit coach Matt Patricia said. “Unreal.”

All too real for the Falcons (1-6), who fired coach Dan Quinn on the heels of becoming the first team in NFL history to lose back-to-back games after leading by at least 15 points in the fourth quarter.

This one only added to the misery.

“Usually you have one or two of those games,” Gurley said. “Not multiple games.”

Trailing 16-14, the Falcons were positioned to run down the clock and kick a chip-shot field goal for the win when they picked up a first down at the Lions 10 with just over a minute remaining.

Detroit had used up all its timeouts on the drive, so there was no further way to stop the clock. Knowing their only chance was to allow a quick TD, the Lions made no attempt to stop Gurley after he took a handoff from Matt Ryan.

“It was great situational defense awareness right there,” Patricia said, going on to praise his defensive players for NOT doing what is normally their job.

Gurley burst through an intentionally gaping hole, with only one defensive player, safety Will Harris, even putting a hand on the runner. Gurley realized what the Lions were doing and tried to fall over, but he landed on the goal line with his ball-carrying hand.

The Lions (3-3) held up their hands to celebrate a touchdown.

By the other team.

“I thought it was perfect,” Patricia said. “Give the players credit. They executed it great. It was a great job by them.”

Gurley knew he had messed up.

“I was mad as hell,” he said. “I was trying not to (score), but my momentum took me in. It’s kind of crazy.”

The Falcons converted a 2-point conversion to make it 22-16, but the Lions still had a chance — especially with a quarterback like Stafford who has led so many comebacks in his career.

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