Deion Jones wants to put Jets’ backs against the wall

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Falcons linebacker Deion Jones comments on potential advantages of facing a rookie quarterback as they will against in N.Y. Jets' Zach Wilson.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons linebacker Deion Jones has made game-ending plays in his career.

There was the walk-off interception against Tampa Bay in the final game of the 2019 season. There was the soaring interception in the end zone to thwart the New Orleans Saints in Week 14 of the 2017 season, when he was on his way to Pro Bowl status.

So, it was kind of odd to see Jones miss a tackle on running back J.D. McKissic in the 34-30 loss Sunday to the Washington Football Team.

“That’s life,” Jones said. “That’s life. That (doesn’t) stop (anything). Pick up this week and make some more tackles.”

Jones and the Falcons (1-3) are set to face the Jets (1-3) at 9:30 a.m. ET at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

On the key play, Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke heaved the ball across the field to McKissic, who scored from 30 yards out. You almost expected Jones to dart in front of McKissic and take it in for a pick-six like he’s done five times over his career.

“We got the quarterback under duress, and he throws over to the back, who’s not even in the route,” Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees lamented. “He’s just standing there.”

Linebacker Mykal Walker was attracted to the action on the defense’s right side of the field and ran at Heinicke. Jones hustled over to McKissic, but couldn’t bring him to the ground.

“We kind of take our eyes off of what we have to do and go do something else,” Pees said. “… It wasn’t anything malicious in any way, I’m going to do something else. It was more like I see the quarterback scrambling, and we don’t stay at home over there where we need to stay so he can’t throw that pass or if he throws it back there, we knock it down or we pick it off.”

Jones is not dwelling on that missed opportunity. Even if he makes the tackle, the Washington Football Team was in field-goal range with the score 30-28. However, kicker Dustin Hopkins had missed two extra-point attempts Sunday.

“You know, we just have got to finish,” Jones said.

Jones, who’s playing inside linebacker in the new 3-4 alignment after playing middle linebacker in the 4-3 for five seasons, is off to strong start, with 38 tackles, four tackles for losses, a sack and a quarterback hit.

The defense came up with a big fourth-quarter stop in the 17-14 over the Giants a week earlier, but didn’t come through against Washington.

“Get back to work,” Jones said. “You put the past behind you and stack all of the good days that we have at practice. Put it behind us and keep working. We’ve got a long a season.”

Jones is one of the five permanent captains and has the pulse of the team.

“We’re good,” Jones said. “We’ve got a lot of good guys. No one is pointing the finger. No one is pouting. We are all getting to work.”

The Falcons’ defense is a work in progress under Pees.

“The biggest thing is keeping the energy the same and not being front-runners,” Jones said. “Not getting too down on ourselves. Every week with the same approach and same prep. Some things are going to have to change you know to make things right. Other than that, we are still working.”

The Falcons are going through growing pains as a team. The defense has five new starters and now must replace nickel back Isaiah Oliver, who is out for the season after sustaining a knee injury Sunday.

“I feel like as a whole team we are figuring each other out,” Jones said. “Little minuses here and there, but the overall football is good. Flying around, people are playing tough and no one is quitting.”

Replacing Oliver, who was off to a strong start, will be key to the growth of the defense.

“Isaiah is one of our guys, and it (hurts) when one of your boys goes down,” Jones said. “We are going to continue to support him off the field, especially in his recovery. The road to recovery can be a little lonely.”

Like Heinicke, Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson scrambled around and made some plays in the 27-24 overtime win over Tennessee on Sunday. However, he has a passer rating of 62.8 and has thrown eight interceptions.

“This is the NFL, all teams are good,” Jones said. “They have their pluses also. We just have to be on our details and do what we have to do on defense and offense to put their backs against the wall.”

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Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons Schedule

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington FT 34, Falcons 30

New York Jets vs. Falcons in London, Oct. 10 at 9:30 a.m.

Bye Week

Falcons at Miami Dolphins, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m.

Here’s the rest of full schedule

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