J.D. McKissic was airborne with 33 seconds left in the Washington Football Team's game against the Atlanta Falcons. He could have stepped out of bounds with two defenders closing in on him, but with Washington trailing, the team needed the points. The easy route was not an option.
McKissic landed about five yards away, and the official huddled to confer on whether the ball crossed the plane. McKissic didn't need to debate; he simply pointed his fingers skyward to signal a touchdown. The officials agreed with him, giving Washington a 34-30 lead.
"I knew I scored," McKissic said after Washington's win. "I just wanted to make sure they knew."
The extra effort is what ultimately gave Washington the win, but the play meant a little more to McKissic than just helping his team get to a 2-2 record. A large portion of the McKissic clan, including his parents and godson, were in the stands, and they all watched him show once again why he's become so valuable to the offense.
"To score a touchdown in front of them is a dream come true," McKissic said.
McKissic is used to making plays as a pass-catcher in his second season with Washington. He had 589 receiving yards in 2020 -- the second-most for a running back behind Alvin Kamara -- and he's on his way to putting up similar results in 2021 with 142 yards on 12 receptions.
McKissic caught all five of his targets against the Falcon, but his 30-yard romp to the end zone is the one people care about the most. McKissic ran a sneak route over to the right of the play while the rest of Taylor Heinicke’s options were heading to the left. He normally has an easier path slipping through the offensive line, but the bump he got at the line of scrimmage and Heinicke scrambling to his left likely allowed linebacker Deion Jones to momentarily lose him in the confusion.
"Taylor made eye contact with me and I knew he was about to sling it," McKissic said.
McKissic hauled in the pass, and Jones, the Falcons defender he wanted to see the least, was closing in on him. It makes sense that McKissic wasn't enthusiastic to meet the former 2017 Pro Bowler. Jones has recorded at least 100 tackles in four of six seasons in the NFL, so it's rare for him to miss.
Jones made a dive for McKissic's legs, but the running back evaded the attempt and turned upfield. Randy Jordan and Jennifer King have emphasized keeping his feet up. Moments like that are exactly why it's so important.
"I slip a good little bit," McKissic said. "But I was fortunate enough to get my feet up on that and get an opportunity to finish it."
Five seconds later, McKissic was diving for the score that gave Washington the lead for good. Next Gen Stats gave the play a 10.5% success rate. That's all the chance McKissic needed to get the job done.
"Initially I thought, 'Hey this is great. It's going to give us better field position,'" Heinicke said. "He broke that first tackle and then he kind of superman-ed into the end zone, which was huge for us if you kind of look at it. That made the Falcons have to go score a touchdown."
There was a sense of irony that came with McKissic's game-winning touchdown. He first signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2017 as was waived a few months later, starting him on a journey that took him to the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions before Washington took a chance on him in 2020.
Despite a limited amount of snaps in that span, Scott Turner believed he could become a key piece of the unit's success. Plays like the one McKissic made Sunday show why he was right.
"Seize the moment," McKissic said. "When you get a chance to make a play, make a play."