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Check the Tape: Why no one can stop Todd Gurley in the red zone

Terez Paylor
·Senior NFL writer
·2-min read

When Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley mistakenly scored late in the fourth quarter of a 23-22 loss to the Detroit Lions about a month ago, he caught a lot of flak for it. And understandably so.

Instead of allowing the Falcons to run out the clock, his late TD gave the Lions the ball back and the opportunity to win the game, which they did.

I felt bad for Gurley. Not just because he stopped himself in similar situations before, but also because he is one of the league’s best running backs in the red zone. Asking a running back as good as Gurley is at finding pay dirt to, well, not find pay dirt is like telling a plumber not to plumb for a living. We do what we know.

Plus, I was worried the blunder might soon overshadow Gurley’s greatness in the red area among the general football public. So consider this week’s edition of “Check the Tape” my contribution to preventing that from happening.

Todd Gurley of the Atlanta Falcons leaps over the goal line for a touchdown during the NFL Week 1 game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 13, 2020 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley leaps over the goal line for a touchdown in Week 1 against Seattle. (David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In the video above, which is expertly stitched together by my main man Ron Schiltz, I laid out why Gurley is so good in the red zone. He entered Week 10 second in the NFL in touchdowns with nine. Gurley joined me to break down three of the primary run concepts the Falcons use in the red area: outside zone, inside zone and power.

Gurley says he always had a knack for scoring, largely out of necessity.

“When you get in that red zone man, you’ve got to find a way in,” Gurley told Yahoo Sports, “because if you don’t get the touchdown, somebody else will.”

And with the Falcons riding a 3-1 record over the past month, that means they’ve still got a chance to redeem their season, despite their 3-6 overall record. If they’re going to do it, it has to start this weekend against a stingy New Orleans Saints defense that has become quite good against the run.

That may not matter against Gurley, who remains one of the league’s very best. And once you watch the video, you’ll know exactly why.

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