There are undoubtedly some who will pin Atlanta's recent 23-22 loss to the Detroit Lions on running back Todd Gurley, who couldn't stop himself from going into the end zone late in the fourth quarter and setting up Detroit's comeback victory, but Raheem Morris isn't among them.
Speaking with the media on Monday, Morris took full responsibility for the decision to run the ball on first down with 1:12 remaining in the game after the Lions had just used their final timeout.
"My biggest regret today," Morris said. "I wanted to give the ball to Todd and let him take the knee. I made that decision; I put that on Todd. Todd got some momentum going and couldn't quite get stopped where he wanted to get stopped to go down, so we could have the game end with a kick. Run out of our stadium with Koo kicking it and us have a happy conversation today."
Gurley broke through the line as a few Lions defenders half-heartedly attempted to tackle him. After the last defensive player released him, he couldn’t slow down his momentum before landing just past the goal line.
The touchdown and ensuing two-point conversion gave the Falcons a 22-16 lead with 1:04 remaining in the game, but it also gave the ball back to Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense. Stafford guided Detroit down the field, alternating between big plays and spiked balls, and set up his 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end T.J. Hockenson as time expired.
If he could do it again, Morris would have never allowed Stafford to touch the ball again.
"I should have, looking back at it, taken a knee with Matt," Morris said. "But I just wanted to put it in Todd's hands, a guy that's comfortable carrying the ball in [that] situation, not have to worry about people jumping on a quarterback pile and trying to knock the ball out of [Matt's] hands. I wanted to put it in a sure running back's hands."
After the game, Gurley said he was “mad as hell” that he wasn't able to go down at the 1-yard line as he wanted to. Ryan said the Falcons would do things differently in hindsight when speaking on Monday, but that doesn't do much to soften the blow of a 1-6 record after another late-game loss.
For his part, though, Morris is owning the decision and the resulting outcome. After leading the Falcons to their first game of the season in his first game as interim head coach, Morris very nearly started his run as the team's leader with two straight wins. That's not how things shook out, however, and Morris is taking that head on.
"Put that on me 100 percent," Morris said. "Todd knew exactly what he wanted to do. And like he talked to you last night, how mad he was at himself. But, when I get a chance to see him, I'm going to let him know, I put that on me and I should have put the ball in Matt Ryan's hands. … Definitely a mistake on me, make no excuses about it. I'll take that right to the face."
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions with top photos from inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Week 7.