Dirty Bird Daily: Falcons need Julio Jones healthy in order to beat Packers


Julio Jones’s foot injury didn’t stop the Atlanta Falcons from winning games this year. That doesn’t mean they can afford to not have him healthy on Sunday.

Julio Jones will play on Sunday as the Atlanta Falcons take on the Green Bay Packers. This is very positive news for Falcons Nation just days before the NFC Championship Game. The team has won games without Jones on the field this season, but they can’t afford to play without him against the Packers.

The Falcons have developed a knack for utilizing the full team concept this season. We’ve even gone as far as to suggest Atlanta doesn’t need Julio Jones on the field to win some games. But the Falcons are heading into Week 14 at Los Angeles or Week 15 vs. San Francisco. The stakes are obviously much higher for Atlanta on Sunday.

The Green Bay secondary may be among the worst, but the Falcons still can’t roll the dice without their best player.

Jones is key to establishing the offense early

Establishing an early lead has been instrumental in just every playoff game this season. Atlanta relied on Jones to do just that as they got started against Seattle. Matt Ryan wasted no time targeting Julio Jones three times on the Falcons’ opening drive, to include their first touchdown. He ended up dominating the battle with Richard Sherman on the way to six catches for 67 yards. The damage had already been done to the Seahawks by the time Jones exited with his foot injury.

Think back to the Detroit Lions and their Wildcard playoff loss to the Seahawks. The Lions offense surprisingly thrived during their first post-Calvin Johnson era regular season. The narrative completely changed when Detroit severely struggled to generate offense at Seattle. It was obvious then that they missed their former big play threat in “Megatron”.

Big players win big games

It’s not a complicated concept. The Atlanta Falcons once traded five draft picks for the opportunity to select Julio Jones. They did so largely because of the type of game Atlanta will be locked into come Sunday. Jones is the type of player who can take over a game. When push comes to shove, an entire city will lean on his type of player to make something happen.

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One of the big differences with this season’s Atlanta Falcons is the success they’ve had spreading the ball around on offense. Fans enjoyed watching as a new target would emerge in the wake of a key injury. As in the case of Taylor Gabriel, a potential star was born in 2016. This doesn’t change the fact Atlanta needs Julio Jones to win on Sunday. Jones will make plays all over the field, in addition to creating opportunities for others. He’s clearly the pulse of the Falcons offense and a key to unlocking a trip to the Super Bowl.

The Falcons have won without him, but they’re clearly better with him

Dan Quinn was confident enough in his team that he rested Julio Jones for two straight games earlier in the year. The Atlanta Falcons offense didn’t miss a beat, compiling 523 passing yards and five touchdowns. Matt Ryan completed passes to 11 different receivers during that span, all while Jones was able to heal. Jones returned to limited action in Week 16 and led the Falcons with four catches for 60 yards.

He looked undoubtedly back to full speed against the Saints, a game where caught seven balls for 96 yards and a touchdown.

Next: Why the Atlanta Falcons will win the NFC title game

Jones re-aggravated a foot injury during last Saturday’s game against Seattle early in the fourth quarter after aggravating a foot injury suffered back in Week 13. He reassured the media on Thursday that he was ready to play this Sunday vs. Green Bay.