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Alabama in the Pros

Julio Jones’ masterful effort keeps Atlanta Falcons alive in NFC playoff hunt

Brett Davis - USA TODAY Sports

He’s been a disservice to the Atlanta Falcons all season, but in Sunday’s matchup with Tampa Bay, first-year coordinator Steve Sarkisian thought it would be high time to wake up and feature the best wide receiver in today’s National Football League more in the game plan. 

As the franchise continues to chase New Orleans for an opportunity to clinch the NFC South, Julio Jones took it upon himself to destroy the Buccaneers’ secondary. The combination of Jones and quarterback Matt Ryan was on point at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as he turned in a season-high 12 catches for 253 receiving yards with two touchdowns in the Falcons’ 34-20 victory. 

Jones’ first score of the contest was a quick message to the opposition, especially with it being a 51-yard hookup from teammate, Mohamed Sanu.

Sanu, who bobbled the snap on the play, kept his wits about him and found Jones deep downfield for a touchdown.

Prior to starting his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012, the ex-Rutgers University standout played some at quarterback position in college throwing four touchdown passes.

While his 253 yards also stood as a season-high, Jones recorded his first multi-touchdown game of this year and ninth for his career. He averaged 21.1 yards per reception; the third-highest output for him after games against the New York Jets (24.7) and Green Bay Packers (21.6). 

Consistency and timing were a part of Jones’ performance, seeing how he caught 80 percent of his targets (12 of 15), 10 of his 12 receptions went for either first downs or touchdowns – 83.3 percent – and seven of his 12 grabs came on plays of 15 yards or more (58.3 percent).

Now at 7-4, Jones and Atlanta hold the sixth and final spot in the National Football Conference (NFC) postseason picture. Despite falling to the Panthers earlier in the season, the Falcons will have a shot at revenge during the last week of December. It also still has two matchups with New Orleans, including the first of the pair being on Thursday, Dec. 7 at home. 

Following his showing, Jones has 54 catches for 786 yards and three scores. 

The former first-round pick out of the University of Alabama is nearing his fifth 1,000-yard campaign among the professional ranks, since getting selected in the 2011 NFL Draft. 

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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