Falcons beat Bucs behind Jones’ 253 reception yards
ATLANTA — Atlanta Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones burned Tampa Bay again on Sunday, extending his banner success against the Buccaneers.
Jones, who came in with just one touchdown reception, caught 12 passes for 253 yards and two scores as the Falcons won their third game in a row, beating the Bucs 34-20.
Jones teamed with fellow wide receiver Mohamed Sanu for a 51-yard touchdown on a trick play and caught a 25-yard TD pass from quarterback Matt Ryan, who finished 26 of 35 for 317 yards and one score.
“We doubled him, we tried rolling the coverage to him, we tried pressing him and we didn’t have an answer for him,” Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter said of trying to defend Jones.
Jones has 80 catches for 1,359 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 career games against the Buccaneers.
“Every catch is special. There are no easy catches in the NFL,” Jones said.
Sanu’s bomb to Jones out of the wildcat formation early in the second quarter on third-and-1 to break a 3-3 tie was the six-year veteran’s third NFL touchdown pass. Sanu botched a fake handoff to Tevin Coleman, but regained control of the ball and hit Jones crossing into the end zone.
“I saw him take off and I just threw it out there. I had to have a little flashback (to high school),” said Sanu, a former quarterback.
“I knew it was in the playbook,” Jones said of the play.
“They work on throwing to each other all the time,” Ryan said. “But it was cool to see it come to fruition in live action for the first time. It was a perfect pass. Mohamed is a stud. Really great throw and great adjustment by Julio, too, at the end.”
Ryan extended his streak with at least one touchdown to 30 games on his connection with Jones in the second quarter that helped put the Falcons up 20-6 at halftime.
The victory for the Falcons (7-4) snapped a two-game winning streak by the Buccaneers (4-7).
Matt Bryant had two first-half field goals for the Falcons, hitting from 49 and 36 yards, while Patrick Murray connected from 36 and 27 yards for the Buccaneers.
The Falcons drove 78 yards after the second-half kickoff and went up by 21 points on Coleman’s 3-yard touchdown run before the Bucs rallied.
Running back Peyton Barber scored from 2 yards out in the third quarter and a yard out early in the fourth, both capping long drives.
The Bucs drove to the Falcons 19 after a 37-yard return by Brent Grimes following a fumble by Terron Ward killed a long drive, but safety Keanu Neal knocked away a fourth-and-1 pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick with seven minutes remaining.
“I told the players I should have given them a better play. That’s on me,” Koetter said. “You have three or four plays on your sheet for that situation and I didn’t pick the right one.”
Coleman’s second touchdown run, from 14 yards out, clinched the Falcons’ victory with just under two minutes remaining.
Coleman, who became the father of twins on Saturday, had 97 yards rushing on 19 carries, and the Falcons, who collected 148 yards on the ground, finished with 516 yards of total offense.
Fitzpatrick completed 27-of-44 passes for 283 yards. Neither Ryan nor Fitzpatrick had an interception and the Falcons had the game’s only sack.
The big game gave Jones two 90-game receiving milestones for the NFL. He has 563 catches, bettering Anquan Boldin’s record of 558, and 8,649 yards, besting Lance Allworth’s 8,502.
“I’m not a stat guy. That would be selfish,” Jones said. “I just want to win.”
NOTES: The Falcons lost CBs Desmond Trufant (concussion) and Brian Poole (lower back) in the second quarter. ... The Bucs had RT Demar Dotson and C Ali Marpet leave with knee injuries, and RB Doug Martin departed with a concussion, all in the second quarter. ... DT Clinton McDonald (back), S T.J. Ward (concussion) and CB Josh Robinson (hamstring) were hurt in the third quarter. ... In addition to QB Jameis Winston (shoulder), the Bucs started the game without DE Robert Ayers (concussion), CB Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring) and G Evan Smith (concussion). ... Falcons RB Devonta Freeman (concussion) missed his second straight game. ... Two remaining end sections of the Georgia Dome, which was imploded Monday, tower over rubble next door to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. ... The Falcons and Bucs play in Tampa on Dec. 18. ... The Falcons host Minnesota next Sunday in their only remaining game not against an NFC South opponent. ... The Bucs are at Green Bay next Sunday in their third straight road game.