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McLaurin's catch -- and his reaction -- are why his teammates love him so much


The Commanders' fate against the Indianapolis Colts came down to a 50-50 ball, but for the players on the Washington sideline, there was no doubt about who was going to come down with it. 

Just before the Commanders' final drive of the game, trailing 16-10 with 2:39 left to play, one of Terry McLaurin’s closest friends, Grant Prather, 26, charged the wide receiver to be the one to give the Commanders the game-saving play. 

"He was telling me, 'Yo, got to go make the play to win the game!'" McLaurin said during his press conference. "Your family and your friends think you're going to make every single play, and you're just going to run off into the sunset. You just don't know how it's going to come up." 

That moment came with 41 seconds left on the clock. Taylor Heinicke heaved the ball to McLaurin down the left sideline, and after snatching the ball from cornerback Stephon Gilmore, he set Washington up at the 1-yard line, resulting in the game-winning touchdown one play later.

It was an incredible moment for McLaurin, who left his hometown with 113 yards on six receptions, that put the Commanders at 4-4 heading into Week 9. But for his coaches and teammates, it was a moment they have come to expect from him.

"He continues to make the plays," Heinicke said after the 17-16 win. "Very blessed that he's on our team. I can't say enough things about Terry. ...He brings the people in the locker room together."

It was not lost on anyone in the locker room that McLaurin was playing in his hometown for the first time in his professional career. It was where he crafted countless memories, from winning state championships at Lucas Oil Stadium to attending Colts games with his father.

McLaurin approached his preparations for the week as if it were a normal game. Still, he would be lying if he said it meant nothing to him.

"It's kinda cool to be able to go back to where I grew up...where my affinity for football started," McLaurin said earlier in the week.

Take a look at the top photos from the Washington Commanders' Week 8 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)

Not that it should come as a surprise to the Commanders or the fanbase, but McLaurin was a star for the offense during his homecoming. His first reception of the game was a 42-yard sprint down the sideline after beating cornerback Kenny Moore II on a crossing route.

Three plays later, Washington was in the end zone with a 7-3 lead.

"He's just doing what Terry does," said fellow receiver and former Ohio State teammate Curtis Samuel. "Every time we call on him to make a play, he goes out there and makes a play."

McLaurin, like the rest of the Commanders' offense, was quiet after the scoring drive. There were a couple of grabs here and there, one of which was an 18-yard catch that helped Washington cut into the Colts' nine-yard lead with a 28-yard field goal.

None of his grabs came close to the one he was about to make.

After a third-down stop by the Commanders' defense, McLaurin and the offense started their drive at their own 11-yard line and moved all the way down to the Colts' 34. Based on the coverage that Washington saw from Indianapolis, McLaurin was supposed to be a decoy on the play so Washington's slot receiver could get open.

But when that did not happen, Heinicke sat back in the pocket and waited to see who came open. It did not take long; he looked to his left and saw McLaurin behind Gilmore with his hand in the air.

One thought came to Heinicke's mind: "Hey, let's give him another shot."

"Terry's that dude," Heinicke said. "He's got that dog in him, and I want to continue to give him opportunities to make big plays."

It is hard to argue with Heinicke, even if McLaurin is matched up against a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro like Gilmore. McLaurin had to come back to make the grab, and Gilmore made a move for it at the same time.

That did not hamper McLaurin's confidence in himself, nor did it cause the team's belief in him to waver.

"Terry wasn't gonna be denied," said head coach Ron Rivera. "The nice thing was that he was in the lead position, so he got a chance to focus on the ball the whole time and was able to anticipate [the] jump and go get it and wrestle it away from a very good football player."

As McLaurin walked off the field after Washington called a timeout, he had a message for the thousands in attendance: "This is my city! This is my f---ing city!"

"When the ball was in the air, I knew he was finna get that," said wideout Cam Sims. "I just threw my hands up. I thought it was a [touchdown]."

It was not a score, but it was almost as good as one. Heinicke dove into the end zone on the following play, giving Washington the lead with 22 seconds left.

"People wanna fight for him," Heinicke said. "And to see him fight for everyone else, too, it speaks volumes. The guy's a treasure, and I'm very happy he's on our team."

Of course, the meaning of the moment hit McLaurin. He had just helped the Commanders climb back to .500 after nearly being in free-fall with a 1-4 record three weeks ago. What's more, he did it in his hometown with about 70 of his closest friends and family watching him.

"I'm thankful that I'm here," Mclaurin said. "And it's extremely humbling. I just wanna continue to be the guy that my teammates believe I can be."

The performances that McLaurin puts up are nice; the NFL, at its core, is a production-based business, and his teammates appreciate that.

But there is another reason why McLaurin's teammates love him so much, and it was seen in the locker room after the game, when he was presented with the game ball.

"All I want to do is make plays for y'all," McLaurin told his teammates. "That's all I want to do to help this team. ...I know I get the glory, but I do it all for y'all."

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