Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones could be the X-factor on Sunday when he plays the New England Patriots in a Super Bowl rematch.
Interestingly, it’s as much about the Patriots’ struggles as it is about Jones’ incredible talent.
“Patriots, first team to ever allow a 300-yard passer in 6 straight games, set sights on slowing down Julio Jones,” noted ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
And that’s the kicker here. The Patriots are giving up more passing yards, more consistently, than any team in NFL history. This is a team that allowed New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown to throw for 354 yards and two scores, even though the Jets lost their top two wideouts in the offseason and everyone thought they were tanking. The Patriots gave Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton 316 yards and three touchdowns when, just the week before, he’d thrown for 167 yards and three interceptions against the New Orleans Saints.
The Patriots haven’t faced anyone close to Julio Jones’ caliber at the wideout position. Jones has gone over 1,400 yards the last three years in a row. He has 367 yards on 25 catches in 2017. He also has yet to find the end zone, but this is primed to be a breakout game and could very well be a chance for him to end that drought.
For their part, the Patriots know it’s coming.
“They do a good job of moving him, so it puts a lot of stress on the defense,” said safety Devin McCourty. “I think overall, everyone has to know where he’s at. It’s not even just the secondary. The ‘backers have to know, so it puts a ton of stress on you. You have to know where he’s at, what they like to run from where he’s at, so it’s something I think we’re fully aware of.”
Whether that means they can stop him is another story entirely.
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