Falcons hoping hip injury won’t sideline Jones
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Falcons coach Mike Smith said Tuesday the “intention” is for wide receiver Julio Jones to play this week against Pittsburgh after hurting his hip in Monday night’s loss at Green Bay.
Jones had 11 catches for a team-record 259 yards with one touchdown in the 43-37 loss to the Packers. He watched from the sideline after leaving the game in the fourth quarter with the injury.
Smith said Jones and safety William Moore, who hurt his foot, were sore on Tuesday and may miss practice time this week.
“How much practice time they’re going to get, we don’t know that at this point in time,” Smith said. “It’s our intention to have those guys ready to go against Pittsburgh.”
The Falcons (5-8) remain tied for first in the NFC South. If Jones can’t return, it would be a big blow to Atlanta’s hopes of winning the NFL’s worst division.
Jones has a combined 448 yards receiving in his last two games. He set a personal high with 189 yards in a home win over Arizona on Nov. 30 before topping that total with the team record against the Packers.
“He showcased on the national stage the kind of player that he is,” said quarterback Matt Ryan. “That kind of production is huge for our football team.”
Ryan passed for 375 yards and a season-high four touchdowns against Green Bay.
“Again, when they’re in sync, it really is very difficult to slow those guys down,” Smith said of Jones and Ryan. “Julio is an outstanding wide receiver. In my mind he’s the best in the NFL. In the last few weeks, you’re not going anyone who can put games together back to back like that. Of course for a receiver to have a big game, the quarterback has to be able to distribute the ball and Matt has done a very good job.”
Jones’ stats back up Smith’s claim. He leads the NFL with 1,428 yards receiving, a career high.
Jones was leading the NFL in catches when his 2013 season ended with a broken bone in his right foot in a Week 5 loss to the Jets. He broke the same bone during his college career at Alabama.
The fourth-year receiver has made his successful return from the foot injury, and now there is a new concern. He moved stiffly on the sideline following the injury. At one point he grabbed his helmet as if he planned to return to the game before being sent back to the bench.
The Falcons have won three of five, including a split of back-to-back games with Arizona and Green Bay, two of the NFC’s top teams.
After Sunday’s visit from Pittsburgh, Atlanta finishes the regular season with NFC South games against New Orleans and Carolina.
New Orleans and Atlanta are tied at 5-8, but the Falcons already have a win over the Saints.
“The opportunity keeps coming up for us,” Ryan said. “I think collectively we need to seize it. We are at the point in the season where it is time.”
Even if they lose to the Steelers, the Falcons would win the South by beating the Saints and Panthers.
“I just think we need to play consistent football,” said running back Steven Jackson. “I think the last two weeks we played two of the best NFC if not the best NFL teams, and by in large we competed at a very high level.”
Smith said he had no update on cornerback Robert Alford, who missed the game with a wrist injury.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
Follow Charles Odum on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CharlesOdum