Julio Jones' NFC Championship Performance Cements Falcons WR in Top 5

Pete SchauerCorrespondent IJanuary 20, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 20:  Wide receiver Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons catches a 20-yard touchdown against cornerback Tarell Brown #25 of the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on January 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Julio Jones certainly bolstered his argument as a top-five wide receiver in the NFL following a dominant performance against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday afternoon.

Despite the 28-24 loss, Jones was easily the best offensive player in the Georgia Dome.

Facing the NFL's fourth-best pass defense during the regular season, Jones showed no regard for the Niners' secondary, torching them to the tune of 11 receptions, 182 yards and two touchdowns.

In the first half alone, Jones amassed seven receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns.

On the opening drive of the game, the 6'3" wideout established himself as San Francisco's biggest problem, scoring a 46-yard touchdown to give Atlanta a 7-0 lead.

Jones struck again on the Falcons' third drive of the game after a field goal gave Atlanta a 10-0 lead.

From 20 yards out, Matt Ryan hit Jones with a beautiful pass in the corner of the end zone and watched as his wide receiver did the rest. Jones got one foot down and dragged the other inbounds with the defender draped all over him.

That catch alone—aside from being a highlight-reel type of catch—is enough to showcase the 23-year-old's talent.

Jones is big, physical and fast and has the type of hands that natural wide receivers are born with.

It also doesn't hurt that Jones has the pleasure of playing alongside Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, who undoubtedly help draw coverage away from Jones at times.

Jones may not find himself near the top of the NFL in terms of receptions and yardage like Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall do, but that's due to the fact that Jones is playing alongside a Pro Bowl wideout and a future Hall of Fame tight end.

NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt weighed in on Jones via Twitter:

I said it on @siriusxmnfl this morning: Julio Jones is best WR in @nfl. Better than Megatron. Better hands, stronger, same speed. #SFvsATL

— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) January 20, 2013

Even with the other talented members of Atlanta's offense, Jones scored 10 receiving touchdowns while going for 1,198 yards on 79 receptions.

Furthermore, Jones averaged 74.9 YPG (12th in NFL) and compiled 450 yards after the catch, which was good for 10th in the league.

His 17 plays of 20 or more yards tied him for 10th best in the NFL, and the second-year man never once fumbled the football this season.

As I said, Jones isn't going to get as much respect or media coverage as guys like Megatron, Marshall and Andre Johnson because he's not a household name just yet, but Jones' monster day on Sunday proves he's a top-five WR in the NFL.


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