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Julio Jones did not exactly save his best for last. Even he admitted as much.

The veteran wide receiver’s performance in the final week of the 2021 regular season, however, was better than most of the others in his first season with the Tennessee Titans.

Most notably, he scored a touchdown – his first for the Titans. The 3-yard reception with seven minutes to play turned out to be the game-winner as Tennessee held off the Houston Texans 28-25 and clinched the top seed in the AFC for the postseason.

“It’s been a process for me going back and forth, playing and not playing,” Jones said following the contest. “The guys just supported me through the whole time. They came out there, we celebrated, and we just shared that moment. So, it was cool. … It meant more to them than me to get out there and score.”

Among the other meaningful aspects of Jones’ performance was the fact that quarterback Ryan Tannehill targeted him nine times, a season-high for Jones and at least three more than any of his Titans teammates. Those targets included a couple of deep shots, the kind everyone envisioned when Tennessee traded with Atlanta and paired the seven-time Pro Bowler with catch-and-run specialist A.J. Brown.

Jones’ longest gain of the contest was 19 yards, but he finished with a team-leading five receptions for 58 yards.

That was as many catches as he had in the previous seven games combined. Of course, he missed four of those, three because of a hamstring injury that has been an issue since training camp and one because he was on the Reserve—COVID-19 list.

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“Man, it's good just to have him out there, man, doing what he does,” Brown said. “Just … him being out there, you got to account for him. I'm glad to see him get in the end zone. He was excited.”

The only time Jones put up better numbers this season was Week 2 at Seattle, when he caught six passes for 128 yards.

That game included an apparent 6-yard touchdown catch that was overturned on video review. At the time, no one imagined it would take as long as it did for him to get one that counted.

As it turned out, though, the one he got could not have come at a better time. It came on the first possession after the Texans had cut a 21-point halftime deficit to three.

“He was in a good spot and [I] was able to kind of put it on him before the safety was playing back to him,” Tannehill said. “He made a strong catch through contact there, so it was a huge play when we needed it really badly.”

Jones finished the regular season tied for fifth on the team with 31 receptions and was third with 434 yards despite the fact that he missed seven full games and parts of several others. No one else among Tennessee’s top seven in receptions played fewer than 13 contests.

Those numbers pale in comparison to his 10 seasons with the Falcons, during which he averaged 85 catches and 1,290 yards.

Now, though, the playoffs offer an opportunity for a fresh start, one that comes fresh off one of his better performances of the regular season.

“It just felt good to get out there and start hitting some shots, making some plays for the offense,” Jones said. “… I know I didn’t play my best game (Sunday). For me, speaking for myself, it’s just I know I can do way better.”