Throughout the contract squabbles between Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons, the one thing everyone could agree upon was that Jones was worth whatever he could get from the Falcons.
The Falcons eventually made Jones the highest-paid receiver in NFL history just before this season started, and there were no regrets on Sunday night.
Jones took a receiver screen on fourth down and broke free for a 54-yard score with 2:10 left. As Cris Collinsworth pointed out on the NBC broadcast, left tackle Jake Matthews deserves a lot of credit for a fantastic block to give Matt Ryan enough time to get Jones the ball. Jones credited fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu for a great block on the perimeter. It was a great play call against the Eagles’ pressure. Then Jones pulled away from the defense to turn a 20-17 deficit into a 24-20 lead. The Falcons held on when Zach Ertz was tackled by cornerback Isaiah Oliver just short of a first down with less than a minute left on a fourth-down play.
Before that, the Falcons needed Jones to come up with a big play, and he delivered at exactly the right time.
Julio Jones makes a huge play
The Falcons were in trouble before Jones’ big play.
The Eagles suffered multiple injuries and didn’t play well, but the Falcons couldn’t put them away. A rough interception by Ryan into the end zone in the third quarter turned the momentum of the game around. The Eagles took a 20-17 lead on a quarterback sneak by Carson Wentz.
The Falcons were 0-1 after being blown out in the opener at Minnesota. Falling to 0-2 after squandering a lead against a beat-up Eagles team would have been brutal.
Jones signed a three-year, $66 million contract extension just before the season started. He’s a future Hall of Famer and well worth the money. It’s hard to say Jones saved Atlanta’s season with his big touchdown, but let’s say that he saved the Falcons from a really long week of misery.
Eagles let one slip away
The Eagles will have some regrets. For a while it seemed Wentz had dragged his team to a victory, even with starting receivers Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson out for most of the game with injuries. Tight end Dallas Goedert was also out due to a calf injury he suffered before the game in warmups.
It wasn’t Wentz’s best performance, but it epitomized his toughness. Wentz made one of the more improbable throws you’ll see late in the fourth quarter. He was being dragged down by Vic Beasley from behind and somehow got off a pass to Mack Hollins that went for 17 yards. He got the pass off an instant before his knees touched the turf. It was remarkable how he got enough velocity on the pass to get it to Hollins, but he did.
To end the drive, Wentz converted a quarterback sneak on third-and-1, then another quarterback sneak got into the end zone to give Philadelphia the lead with 3:13 left.
After Jones grabbed the lead back for Atlanta, Wentz put a perfect pass on Nelson Agholor’s hands inside of the two-minute warning. Agholor dropped it. He probably would have scored. Agholor helped make up for that with a catch on a desperation fourth-down heave by Wentz to keep their final drive alive. But Oliver’s big tackle on Ertz ended it.
Wentz deserves credit for his heroics on Sunday night, even in a loss. Jones just wouldn’t let the Falcons fall to 0-2.
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