ATLANTA -- Julio Jones gave everyone their money’s worth, including team owner Arthur Blank.
The two-time Pro Bowl receiver was everything the Atlanta Falcons hoped he would be in a season-opening victory against the Philadelphia Eagles at the Georgia Dome on Monday night. Jones showed his game-changing ability with a dominating performance that may have been better had he not come out of the game occasionally in the second half.
"It's just that he doesn't back down," said coach Dan Quinn, when asked what he appreciates about Jones. "Any challenge there, he's ready to go. It's one of the things that I most respect about his game. He's one of those kinds of competitors that is ready for it every time. He's the guy that wants it thrown to him and wants to take the last shot. I can't say enough about him as a competitor."
Jones, who was rewarded in late August with a contract extension through 2020 that included $47 million guaranteed, recorded his 20th career 100-yard receiving game in the Falcons' 26-24 triumph. He finished with nine receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns to give the Falcons just enough breathing space. Jones made easy work of Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell, who tried to match him at times.
Although Quinn’s new and improved defense set the tone early with a fast and physical style of play -- a defense that clinched the game with free safety Ricardo Allen's late interception off a bobbled ball by Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews -- Jones made the offense flow on a night quarterback Matt Ryan was a little off his game. Ryan utilized quick screens and play-action to find Jones down the field.
"Julio, he's an awesome player," Ryan said. "He shows that basically every time he steps onto the field.
"He had a great night tonight; pressed vertical a couple of times. Showed his explosive there in the quick game. Was able to catch it and get yards after contact. He's as good as there is. And we're lucky to have him."
Jones ran great routes and made tough catches look routine. He certainly looked comfortable moving around to different receiver spots in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. Plus Jones was sent in motion numerous times, which kept the Eagles on their heels.
Jones became the sixth player since 1990 to reach at least 100 receiving yards and two touchdown receptions in a Monday night opener. The others were Calvin Johnson (2014), Wes Welker (2011), Ed McCaffrey (1999), Jerry Rice (1994) and Alvin Harper (1993).
Jones should be a matchup nightmare throughout the season, as expected. Next week’s road game against the New York Giants should be another showcase, with no one on the Giants capable of keeping up with him.
Monday’s win had fans leaving the Georgia Dome saying, "We’re going to the Super Bowl." That’s stretching things a bit, but the Falcons definitely have a "Super" star in Jones.
The last time Jones played on ESPN Monday Night Football, he caught 11 passes for a career-high 259 yards and one touchdown at Green Bay last December.