PHILADELPHIA — Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones made no excuses for not coming up with what would have been the game-winning catch in the final moments of Saturday’s 15-10 divisional playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
With the ball on the Eagles’ 2-yard line, Jones, covered by cornerback Jalen Mills on the play, slipped to the ground and appeared to take a push from Mills. He still was able to get to his feet and almost make a play on Matt Ryan‘s floating pass on fourth-and-goal.
“It was just a sprintout, a rollout to me,” Jones said. “Trying to take advantage of one-on-one [coverage] down there.
“I don’t know, but at the end of the day, I can make those plays. I ended up on the ground when I came out of my route. And that’s a tough call [for the official] to make during that situation in the game. That was it.”
Jones, the Falcons’ leading receiver this season, had four touchdown receptions in 16 regular-season games and two playoff contests. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Ryan went 1-of-18 (6 percent) on passes to Jones in the end zone this season, after going 3-of-8 on those passes last season.
Ryan explained Saturday’s final play from his vantage point.
“That’s a play we practice all the time, and certainly in those situations you go to your best player,” Ryan said. “Obviously, roll to the right and have an opportunity to Julio. It just didn’t work out and that’s disappointing. That’s the life you live as a competitor — when you get in those situations, you want the ball in your hand. I think it was a right call. I think we had the right players in mind at the right time — and we just fell a little bit short.”
Eagles safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod said they identified the play before the snap based on formation. They alerted the rest of defenders, including Mills, who said he knew Jones was coming his way.
“They communicated all the way from [Ronald] Darby’s side to my side,” Mills said. “You can’t do nothing but be thankful for having those veteran safeties that are able to ID formations.”
Said McLeod: “It was right hash. That’s kind of a lot of teams’ tendency, is to sprint out, and as soon as I saw the tight end come over I was like, ‘There it is.’ This is everything you dream of as a player. You do your study, you do your preparing, and they come out and run the identical play, and the guys did a good job of stopping it, man.”
Falcons coach Dan Quinn didn’t appear to have a problem with the fourth-down playcall by offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. Quinn was asked if he was confident Ryan and Jones could execute the play.
“Damn right. Absolutely,” he said. “We’re giving our shots to Matt and Julio to go for it and win the game. We didn’t get the job done, but 100 out of 100 we’re gonna put the ball in those two guys’ hands to try to win.”
The Falcons were 1-of-3 in the red zone against the Eagles. They finished the season 0-7 in games in which they failed to score 20 points. After leading the league at 33.8 points per game a year ago en route to the Super Bowl, the Falcons finished the 2017 season at just 22.1 points per game.
Despite the obvious problems, Quinn expressed support for Sarkisian, who took over for Kyle Shanahan in February 2017.
“I recognize that goes with the job, and so does Sark,” Quinn said of the criticism. “Like all things, we assess it all the way through. How can we do things better? There are a lot of things that Sark has brought to our team that we really like.
“I can take a long time to go through different spots, so it’s easy to place blame all onto one person, and that’s a shared responsibility when we don’t achieve at the level that we would like to. There are a lot of really good things that we’ve done, and it was highlighted certainly [Saturday night] where we didn’t get the job done at the end of the game.”
Jones, who backed Sarkisian all season, said he had no problem with the late-game playcalling.
“I feel like everything went well,” Jones said. “It’s up to us to make them come to life. We’re all in this together — whatever is called down, it’s up to us to execute and make it come to life.”
ESPN’s Tim McManus contributed to this report.