Younghoe Koo trotted onto the field at MetLife Stadium with three seconds remaining. The 0-2 Falcons were tied 14-14 with the winless New York Giants. A loss would be devastating for the Falcons, even in an extended 17-game regular-season.
Almost all of the 75,000 fans were standing tall, making noise, praying for a missed field goal.
But a small section of fans held their collective breath. At the edge of their seats. These people had been a part of Koo's journey. Some starting as far back as South Korea and others in the shadows of MetLife Stadium, just 14 miles away in Ridgewood, N.J. That group included Koo's longtime kicking coach, 87-year-old Pat Sempier, who made the trip in to see this moment.
For Koo, this kick was a shot at redemption.
The Los Angeles Chargers released him four years ago after the team's 0-4 start. Koo made just three of six field goals, including a game-tying 44-yard field goal blocked in a 24-21 loss to the Broncos and a missed game-winning 44-yard attempt just a week later in a 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Four years later, after a stop in the American Alliance of Football league, Koo stood at the 30-yard-line, an NFL Pro Bowler and the Falcons record holder for field goals in a single season. Still, he had not done one thing: convert a game-winning field goal.
As he dropped his head and began his kicking routine, the crowd roared. Perfect snap. Laces out. Ball up. And the kick was good almost as soon as it left Koo's shoe, straight through the uprights.
Koo, 27, has had an improbable rise to becoming one of the best kickers in the NFL. From learning a new language, and a new sport to wondering if he would ever have the game-winning NFL field goal moment that all kickers dream about. In just four seasons in the league, Koo has experienced some of the worst and best moments the NFL can offer. And because of it, his focus is now staying on top.