History may never quite remember it in this fashion, but here’s something to remember, eight games into Todd Gurley’s tenure as an Atlanta Falcons running back.
The most (in)famous play of his Falcons career thus far was a last-minute, fourth-quarter run that went for a touchdown to give his team the lead.
For a sports city known for its creativity in inducing heartbreak, there’s tons worse to be known for. Over the last two weeks, Gurley’s questionable decision-making has become the talking point. A big Week 8 win over the Carolina Panthers only provided more ammunition, when Gurley took a toss, and, in an effort to avoid contact from cornerback Troy Pride Jr., ran out of bounds. That allowed the Panthers one more opportunity to tie the game.
Regardless of how you slice it, Gurley has too many fingers pointing in his direction.
Think about it: in each of the last two weeks, the Falcons have dealt with panic because of their fear of putting their No. 22-ranked defense on the field in the most consequential of situations.
Somehow, though, Gurley takes the blame. In reality, Gurley’s a bright spot in this dark situation.
As of Thursday’s game, Gurley has taken the onus, tying with Derrick Henry for the most touches (153). He’s rewarded their return-on-investment with the No. 3 rank in yards and more touchdowns than any skill-position player in the NFL.
One could make the argument that Gurley should be among the least-criticized players on the Falcons’ roster. His volume certainly helps, but to be churning out production like that behind a below-average offensive line (the Falcons are 18th in adjusted line yards), deserves its due.
It appears Gurley creates more offense than ever out of draw play sets, particularly compared to his time with the Rams. There are pros and cons to that, especially since it means the passing game remains a threat. But, Gurley is taking transitions in stride.
Only two players league wide — Derrick Henry and Clyde Edwards-Helaire — are creating more yards after contact. And on tape, Gurley’s seeing that contact almost right away. As one might expect, he’s been elite in yards after that contact, too.
Gurley may not quite be the top-shelf running back that his statistics suggest he is, since he gets so many touches. Last Thursday night, the Falcons got the uber-talented Brian Hill involved, to ration it out. Or, perhaps Gurley missed an assignment that we don’t know about.
Regardless, given the chance, they can become one of the NFL’s most potent backfield duos.
But make no mistake about it. If there’s a game to win, or points to score (or um, maybe not score?), the Falcons, for all of their uncertainties, are a guarantee to do one thing. Hand the ball off to Todd Gurley II. They haven’t allowed one play to cloud their judgment, and Falcons supporters shouldn’t either.