Sometimes I watch Julio Jones between catches, and I wonder how he’s ever going to make the next one. Sometimes he’ll be on the sideline looking as worn out and ragged as an old preacher’s bible. Or it seems something isn’t ever quite right with his finely-tuned anatomy, the best athlete on the Falcons walking like someone who just wore high heels to do a triathlon.
Why, it was barely a couple of plays into Sunday’s game at San Francisco when he came up limping, never a good sign for someone with chronically tricky feet.
And, yet, there’s always another impossible catch coming.
All Jones did Sunday in San Francisco was tie his career-high in catches (13) and targets (20), while hauling in a game-winning catch in the final seconds, just breaking the plane of the goal line with a backward lean.
(About time he got into the end zone, if just barely. About time the Falcons threw his way with paydirt in sight, even if Russell Gage was the first read on the play. For Jones – the fellow you should throw to even if he has three DBs and the opponent’s mascot hanging on him like leeches – had gone nine games without scoring until that moment.)
There is a lesson here near the close of a season going nowhere, one that the 23-year-old Gage is absorbing at this very moment. “He could shut it down. Everyone’s battling something. But he’s not (shutting down). He’s going to go hard no matter what, week in and week out,” Gage noted.
One of the first lessons Jones imparted to Gage when he arrived as a late 2018 draft pick was what should be a rudiment in this profession. But it does help explain those visions of Jones on the sideline, recovering.
“That is one of the first things he told me: Just run,” Gage said.
“I know people are like, duh,” he went on. “I’m watching him run and how he attacks people with his speed, always destroying guys’ leverages with his speed. His thinking is just run, they have to honor your speed because if you don’t you can run by them.
“That’s his thing, he is going to haul butt. That’s his biggest asset.”
There is not a whole lot to hold one’s interest in the 5-9 Falcons for two more games that will do nothing to reshape the NFL firmament.
Watching Julio Jones haul butt even when it makes no difference in the big picture might be one of the more slightly entertaining remains of this day.
With little time left, Jones has some work to do, although trying to get him to talk about a goal is like trying to get Wolfgang Puck to endorse Cheetos.
Having been a vocal supporter of Dan Quinn, Jones still might play a most important role in whether the coach stays or goes. Jones couldn’t have played any harder for Quinn on Sunday if he was the coach’s own agent.
“Yeah, we play for the coaches. But at the same time, you play for yourself. You’re a man, you got to be responsible. Whatever you start you got to finish it,” Jones said Thursday.
Jones requires 250 receiving yards – certainly attainable in two games, but not without a little effort – to go over 1,400 yards for a sixth consecutive season. That would tie him with Jerry Rice for career seasons with 80 or more catches and at least 1,400 receiving yards.
He doesn’t, however, play along with the numbers game.
“I don’t look at it like that – if it comes, it comes. I never base my career off stats. It’s more so about the opportunities I get and make the best of,” he said.
Against the 49ers, Jones pushed his career receiving yardage to 11,881 yards, the highest total in the first nine seasons of anyone, ever. He passed Torry Holt and Rice last weekend to get to the top. There’s a whole lot of mentions of Jerry Rice going on here, which is kind of best compliment one can pay a receiver.
To which Jones responds: “Jerry is a great player. The era we’re in now is definitely different than when he was playing.
“I still got to keep working. Jerry Rice is a different animal to what he accomplished in his time, when he did it. I don’t compare myself to a Jerry Rice. He’s a great player, his work ethic, his whole game. I got to keep going. I’m not even close yet, got to keep working.”
Just keep hauling butt, then, even if there is nowhere really to take this team.
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