Asked just how much pain he was feeling in his sore left foot during the NFC Championship game, Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, perhaps for the first time all day, became sheepish.
“It was OK,” Jones said, smiling.
Jones didn’t need to say much. He’d already sent the message that, no matter the discomfort, he still was the best player on the field during the Falcons’ 44-21 victory at the Georgia Dome.
Jones helped send the Falcons to the Super Bowl with nine catches for 180 yards and two TDs against the Packers. He did so in spite of nagging injuries to his left foot and toe that have slowed him for more than a month.
“He’s a beast,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “He’s an absolute stud.”
Jones played just 58 percent of the offensive snaps against the Seahawks the previous weekend and didn’t finish the game. That left some question as to how effective he would be against the Packers.
It didn’t take him long to answer. Jones had four catches for 71 yards in the first half. Two of those gains went for first downs and another was a 5-yard TD just before halftime.
After halftime, Jones made one of the most sensational plays of his career for a 73-yard TD. Packers cornerback LaDarius Gunter grabbed Jones as he left the line of scrimmage but Jones pushed him aside and kept going. After he caught Matt Ryan’s pass, Gunter gave chase across the field and then finally dived at Jones’ feet. Too late: Jones had pulled away.
Finally, Packers teammate Damarious Randall tried to tackle Jones along the sideline, only to get a face mask full of Jones’ left hand. The stiff arm sent Randall crashing to turf and Jones kept going all the way to the end zone.
“I guess they were playing tug and hold, which any cornerback is going to do,” Jones said. “They are going to try to pull you and mess up the timing and rhythm that a quarterback has. I (spun) out, Matt just gave me a great ball. He let me run to the ball. After that, those guys really couldn’t tackle me.”
After the Falcons celebrated the victory on the field, Jones stopped on his way to the locker room and basked in the moment with his family.
“It felt amazing,” Jones said. “Those are my supporters. That’s why I do it. They basically molded me into who I am today.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.