Bucs don’t have an answer for Julio Jones in 34-20 loss to Falcons

Published November 26 2017
Updated November 26 2017

ATLANTA ó You might not know his given name: Quintorris Lopez Jones. And the way the Bucs approached covering him Sunday, itís possible they thought he was using an alias.

When Mike Smith was the Falcons head coach, he drafted him sixth overall in 2011, so you would think if anybody knew what the Pro Bowl receiver was capable of, itís the Bucs defensive coordinator.

And yet, by any name, Julio Jones was simply the best receiver the Bucs have ever faced after what he did to them in Sundayís 34-20 loss to the Falcons.

Jones had 12 catches for two touchdowns and 253 yards, the most receiving yards allowed to one player in a game by the Bucs in 42 seasons. More yards than Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Tim Brown.

"We tried rolling coverage to him. We tried pressing him," coach Dirk Koetter said. "And we didnít have an answer for him today. The second half we were going to try to press him or cloud to him every single time he was in the game."

According to the Falcons, when it came to coverage, Jones attracted more singles Sundaythan e-Harmony.

"Itís not often that we get that many single opportunities a game, but we got that today," said Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. "I think, historically, we have done that. When heís gotten a single matchup, heís been incredibly explosive."

Jones entered Sundayís game with 42 receptions and one touchdown this season. All it took was a receiver to throw him his second TD. Mohamed Sanu took a direct snap from center and launched a 51-yard bomb that Jones caught over his shoulder behind rookie safety Justin Evans.

And, hey, it wasnít just Evans that Jones ran past on Sunday.

He passed Hall of Famer Lance Alworth (most receiving yards through the first 90 games of an NFL career) and Anquan Boldin (most receptions for the span).

Jones also became the first player in NFL history with three 250-yard receiving games.

"Heís just a total package," receiver Mike Evans said. "One of the best, if not the best, in the game. Itís hard to contain him, obviously."

For his part, Jones fulfilled his reputation as one of the most humble players in the NFL.

"The offensive line did a great job keeping Matt upright and letting him deliver some shots down field," Jones said. "Mohamed did a great job on the deep ball down the middle to me and gave me an opportunity to make a play."

Jonesí second touchdown was a 25-yarder from Ryan in which he had to stretch his 6-foot-3 frame to reach the pylon and made it 17-3 in the second quarter. The lead would expand to 27-6 with the Falcons drive to start the third quarter.

Credit the Bucs for not just starting the team buses parked outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium right then.

"There were some scary moments there late in the second quarter, early in the third quarter," Koetter said.

Tampa Bay actually fought back with backup Ryan Fitzpatrick leading a pair of touchdown drives capped by scoring runs of 2 yards and 1 yard by Peyton Barber. In fact, it was nervous time in Atlanta when linebacker Kendell Beckwith stripped running back Terron Ward of the football and Brent Grimes returned the fumble to midfield.

The Bucs had third-and-2 at the Atlanta 18-yard line. A pass to Adam Humphries only gained a yard, and Koetter (correctly) figured his defense couldnít stop the Falcons twice, so he went for it on fourth-and-1. But Fitzpatrickís pass attempt to Cameron Brate fell incomplete.

"Youíve got three or four plays on your sheet for that situation, and I picked the wrong one," Koetter said.

Also, the Bucs defense was historically bad. On third-and-8 Ryan found Jones singled again for a 24-yard gain to set up the clinching TD.

Smithís defense did not sack Ryan. The Bucs hit him only three times. They made up for the lack of a pass rush with porous coverage. They didnít make the ball go to another player. They wonít let Grimes, one of the best cover corners in the NFL, try to neutralize the other teamís best receiver, preferring to keep him on one side of the field.

"Nah, we didnít do that and they havenít done that," Grimes said.

Quintorris Lopez. Julio. It doesnít matter. For the Bucs, itís hard keeping up with the Joneses.

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