NASHVILLE – Only once in Julio Jones’ 10 years in Atlanta did the Falcons win more than a single game in the postseason.
So, Jones’ name isn’t necessarily one that springs to mind when it comes to players steeped in playoff success.
But as he prepares for his first postseason game with the Tennessee Titans, Jones does so with an impressive playoff résumé.
In the eight postseason contests he’s played, Jones has averaged 107.4 yards per game. That ranks ninth among all NFL players who’ve played at least six playoff games since 1970.
In fact, Jones is the only non-running back on that list’s top 10 players. Jones’ teammate, Derrick Henry, is second, averaging 126.3 yards per playoff in six postseason games. Former Denver running back Terrell Davis tops the list, as he averaged 158.9 yards in eight contests.
“I’m never a stat guy, don’t really pay attention to it,” Jones said Thursday. “But my team needs me, so … I’m here for it. We’re just going to take what the defense gives us and go crazy.”
The chance to make a quick return to the playoffs was one of the reasons Jones wanted to leave Atlanta after last season. The Falcons hadn’t posted a winning record or made the playoffs since 2017. And it appeared Atlanta was embarking on a makeover under new head coach Arthur Smith.
Jones didn’t get to pick his destination because he wasn’t a free agent, but he landed in a spot that’s become used to the postseason in recent years. The Titans have qualified three straight years for the playoffs – and in four of the past five– after going eight seasons without a trip to the postseason.
So, it’s fair to say Saturday’s divisional-round playoff contest is exactly what Jones had hoped for in a new team.
“Absolutely,” Jones said. “Team camaraderie here is the biggest thing. Coaches and players, everybody, they live and breathe football. I’m that type of player, and I came here, and I fit in very well with the guys. It was very welcoming and things like that. But you definitely come here to play in the postseason, to keep on playing.”
Jones’ most memorable playoff experience was likely the lone Super Bowl in which he played, when Atlanta lost 34-28 to New England. The Foley, Ala., native caught four passes for 87 yards in a game that saw the Falcons blow a 28-3 lead.
But that was hardly Jones’ most productive playoff contest.
As recently as 2018 – Jones’ last trip to the postseason – he rattled off a pair of back-to-back big games: He caught nine passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons’ playoff win over the Rams, and followed that with a nine-catch, 101-yard outing in a loss to Philadelphia.
Going back even further, Jones has recorded two monster playoff outings: 11 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns in a 2013 loss to San Francisco, and nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns in a 2017 win over Green Bay.
“I think Julio, when we (traded for him), me and my wife were like, `Holy (crap), Julio Jones is coming on this team,’” left tackle Taylor Lewan said Thursday. “It’s cool to meet a guy with that kind of star power … But you meet him and he’s a humble guy. He takes care of his business, and he works.”
This year hasn’t gone as Jones would have wanted. Injuries have limited him to 10 games, 31 catches, 434 yards and one touchdown.
But he does enter the playoffs with some momentum after making five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown in the Titans’ regular-season finale.
Perhaps that step forward, along with a couple of weeks to rest and rehab, will put Jones on the path for another productive playoff performance.
“I’m in a great place right now,” Jones said. “We gonna’ go out there and put on a show for (Titans fans). That’s what a week of preparation (will do) -- coming out here, working each and every day, and not taking it for granted, and understanding what we have in front of us.”