Lions' T.J. Hockenson comes up clutch on 'National Tight Ends Day'

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Minutes after his game-winning touchdown catch on Sunday, Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson popped on to a Zoom call with reporters with a huge smile and emphatically wished everyone a happy "National Tight Ends Day."

The mock holiday, an invention of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle, happily coincided with the biggest moment of Hockenson's young career, an 11-yard touchdown grab as time expired that capped the Lions' improbable comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons. 

"Oh, man, everyone was fired up," Hockenson said. "Everyone was fired up. It was pure, raw emotion. Guys are stoked. We want to win, we've talked about winning, and it's awesome to come through like that."

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In making the grab, Hockenson erased a blunder on the drive when he failed to get out of bounds, killing valuable seconds off the clock. But with the game on the line, and the play design breaking down because of excellent pressure from the Falcons' pass rush, Hockenson celebrated his day in style. 

Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (88) catches a game-tying touchdown pass as time expired on Sunday.

"I mean, we work on scramble drills a lot in practice, just being able to continue on your routes and trying to find open spots," he said. "And luckily there was an open spot on that side, and Staff (quarterback Matthew Stafford) rolled to the same side I was on.

"When he reared back, I was like, 'Oh, here it comes. Let's do this.' We work on that all the time and it's obviously super cool to see it come to fruition on Sunday."

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With his parents in attendance, watching from behind the end zone where he made the winning grab, the No. 8 pick in the 2019 draft finished his day with five catches for 59 yards. 

Asked if he'd ever been part of a comeback quite like that, Hockenson didn't have to think twice.

"No, I needed it though," he said. "I needed it. It was awesome."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers