On the ground, Jones rushed for 118 yards against the Cowboys, averaging 5.6 yards per carry with three scores. He also had one reception for 13 yards as well.
“Obviously, we played each other the year before, and I felt like we ran the ball well. That was our goal, to be able to run the ball, and that was going to set everything else up.”
And the run game certainly did help open up other opportunities, specifically through the air. Love finished the game completing 16-of-21 passes for 272 yards at a whopping 13.0 yards per attempt.
Love would also throw for three touchdowns and was an efficient 6-for-8 off of play-action for 107 yards, with two scores.
Contributing to the passing game was Jones’ effectiveness in the run game, but also what he did as a pass blocker, oftentimes against Parsons, whose 103 pressures were the most in the NFL during the regular season.
“Well, that’s the thing,” Love said, “our game plan, we have specific play calls where it’s like, we’re chipping, we got the running back, tight end chipping you (Parsons). We have stud jet protection where we are going after the stud.
“But Jones, in that game, did some phenomenal stuff. There were times when we were doing play-action stuff where he’s checking for the nickel coming off the edge, and if he’s not coming, he’s supposed to get out in his route. And he would feel you beat one of our O-linemen, and instincts he would just go to chip you and help in protection.”
On one such play, Jones’ blocking effort gave Love enough time to connect with Romeo Doubs for a 46-yard completion. Another ended up as an incomplete pass down the left sideline to Bo Melton, although that throw likely doesn’t happen without Jones picking up a stunting Parsons.
“It was unbelievable,” said Parsons. “On most of those inside rushes, I was like, there is no way he’s supposed to be there.”
“That’s just the player he is,” added Love, “and where he’s at in the league to know how good of a rusher you are and be able to pick you up and help give me some time back there. There was a couple of them that if we wouldn’t have did that, I don’t know.”
Against Parsons and one of the better pass rush units in football this past season, Love was under pressure on only 33 percent of his dropbacks. For context, over the course of an entire season, that would rank as the 13th lowest out of 43 eligible quarterbacks.
Individually, Parsons would record only three pressures after averaging nearly six per game, along with no sacks. By PFF’s metrics, this game resulted in Parsons’ third-lowest pass rush grade performance of the year.
During GM Brian Gutekunst’s end-of-season press conference, he called Jones a “difference-maker” and the “heartbeat” of the team. We, of course, see that when he’s a ball carrier, but those traits shine through in a variety of ways, including doing the dirty work as a blocker and also as a leader.
“He was free-styling out there,” said Love, “and picking up and doing some great things. Jonesy’s not the biggest dude, but he’s got a lot of heart, bro.”