Brandon Lloyd's Touchdown Smile Photo Almost Didn't Happen

lloydKeith Nordstrom/The New England Patriots

Late in Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game, photographer Keith Nordstrom had to make a choice: He could either head inside or stay until the Pats put the finishing touches on a 52-28 victory.

“I was almost tempted to [go to the Ralph Wilson Stadium work room],” said Nordstrom, who shoots the Pats for both the team’s official publications and the Attleboro Sun Chronicle. “I had a lot of editing to do.”

Luckily for the Internet, Nordstrom picked the second option. Soon after deciding to stick it out, he captured the young NFL season’s best, most bizarre image to date—a sublime shot of diving, smiling receiver Brandon Lloyd.

As we pointed out earlier, the photo has already become meme fodder. Nordstrom seems slightly amused by the fact that he inadvertently created a viral hit. “All in a day’s work,” he said on Tuesday.

To get the shot, Nordstrom was stationed behind the end zone. With about four minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Patriots facing a third-and-five from Bills’ 25-yard line, Tom Brady took a shotgun snap and dropped back to pass. Initially, Nordstrom figured Brady was going to throw to the opposite side of the field. On deep balls, he said, “Brady always goes to his left.”

But as soon as the quarterback patted the ball and reared back, Nordstrom noticed Lloyd—who lined up to Brady’s right and proceeded to burn Buffalo cornerback Aaron Williams—sprinting down the sideline. As soon as Lloyd began his leaping dive, Nordstrom zoomed out as far as he could (photography buffs: he used a Nikon D3 with a 200-400 mm lens) and began pushing his camera’s shutter button. Lloyd hauled in the game-icing touchdown pass and tumbled forward.

Nordstrom was about 10 feet away, and in a clip of the touchdown, you can see him wearing a neon green vest. At the time, he said, “I didn’t even know what I had.” But it wasn’t until he examined the shot that he noticed Lloyd’s expression. In a perfect world, he says he would’ve straightened out the horizon (he said it’s “crooked”) and also tucked more of the bright blue end zone into the frame.

After the game, Lloyd told the Globe’s Shalise Manza Young that it was his “try hard” face. Not even Nordstrom could nitpick that. “The smile kind of makes it,” he said. Exactly.

Follow Alan Siegel on Twitter: @alansiegeldc