Julio Jones closed out the regular season with another spectacular game.
The wide receiver helped the Falcons rally to a 34-32 victory over Tampa Bay with nine catches for 138 yards and one touchdown on Sunday.
It was his 10th 100-yard game of the season, setting a team record. He had nine 100-yard games in 2012.
Shortly afterward, the reality that the Falcons finished 7-9 and were not going to playoffs started to set in.
“Obviously we would want to (be playing) right now, but early on in the season we didn’t deliver,” Jones said. “We wanted to finish strong and on a positive note moving on and into next year.”
Jones did finish strong. He had 113 catches for a league-leading 1,677 yards and eight touchdowns.
After the team slipped to 4-9, Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he planned to evaluate the entire football operation, coaches and players.
The team rallied from that low point to win its final three games.
Jones doesn’t believe the Falcons need a major overhaul this offseason to return to contender status.
“We have to get guys back healthy,” Jones said. “We had a lot of injuries and things like that. That’s about it.”
The offensive line was not stable and used six different starting guards this season. So, the Falcons likely will have to fill that position.
“We have the team,” Jones said. “We have the coaches. We just have to have our guys on the field out there playing for us. This is it.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan also had some thoughts on the 7-9 season.
“There was inconsistencies for us at different points throughout the season, but the margin for error in this league is razor thin,” Ryan said. “It’s very small.
“If we make a few plays in some games throughout the year we could have been a very different football team. It’s disappointing at this point, but it also leads me to be optimistic for us moving forward. We have the right people and the guys are capable of contending late into the year.”
Jones, who was involved in a contract dispute with the team last offseason, plans to continue in his leadership role. The team has said they would re-negotiate with Jones this offseason.
“For me, I’m not going to make up anything,” Jones said. “I’m real authentic when I come to guys and with how I play the game. ... Nothing is going to change on my end. I don’t need to do more or nothing less. I just need to continue to do what I do and be me.”
The offense started slowly Sunday, then got hot against the Bucs. That’s how the unit was inconsistent over the season. Over the five-game losing streak, the offense average 17.6 points per game.
“For me, it’s just all about staying consistent,” Jones said. “Get all of your guys around you to have that same mentality, that same drive and everything. The way you work at practice and everything. Things like that. I’ve been doing it for awhile.
“I know how to play. I know how to practice. I know how to get the mental reps that I need … to put my best foot forward and get the best production that I can give.”
Jones is optimistic about 2019.
“It’s going to come,” Jones said. “We have a lot of injuries that held us back early on.”
The Falcons appeared disinterested at the beginning against the Bucs.
“We can’t play like that,” Jones said. “We started out slow and then we got things rolling. We just didn’t look back. We were running the ball, passing the ball. Our defense was stepping up and making plays. Our defense got a turnover when we needed it.”
Jones liked how the Falcons responded after going down 17-0.
“Just all 11 guys on that one particular play, doing their jobs,” Jones said. “Everybody just settling in. It was the last game of the season. You have everybody here and there, but once we settled in and played Falcons football, we got rolling.”
Jones said he plans to work out, travel and hang out with his family over the offseason.
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