Eagles' secondary containing Julio Jones a key reason they're moving on

Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby knocks the football away from Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones during the fourth-quarter in a NFC Divisional Playoff game on Saturday, January 13, 2018 in Philadelphia.

Atlanta’s Julio Jones had nine catches for 101 yards, but for the most part, the Eagles did a good job keeping him in front of them.

Here is a look at how the Eagles’ secondary fared on Saturday against Jones, one of the most dangerous receivers in football.

FIRST QUARTER

Atlanta’s first possession

Started at: Atlanta 26 after Jay Ajayi’s fumble.

Ended: Eagles’ 15

Plays: 11

Yards gained: 59

Time: 5 minutes, 32 seconds

Defending Julio: Jones caught his only target during the series, a 6-yard out in which he was pushed out of bounds by cornerback Ronald Darby. He had a decent block on Jalen Mills during a 12-yard run by Tevin Coleman that helped set up Matt Bryant’s 33-yard field goal. Jones did not get a look in the red zone. Atlanta 3, Eagles 0.

Second possession

Started at: Atlanta 12 after Donnie Jones’ 29-yard punt into the wind.

Ended:  50-yard line

Plays: 5

Yards gained: 38

Time: 2:57.

Defending Julio: Again, Jones caught his only target, this time a 21-yarder on a slant-and-out in front of Darby. He had a block of Nigel Bradham on a 14-yard play to start the drive. (Actually, Jones just got in Bradham’s way, but it was effective.) Jones is at two receptions for 27 yards. Atlanta 3, Eagles 0.

SECOND QUARTER

Third possession

Started at: Atlanta 25 after an Eagles touchdown by LeGarrette Blount.

Ended:  Eagles’ 48

Plays: 5

Yards gained: 27

Time: 2:57

Defending Julio: Jones was targeted twice. A deep pass, into the wind, fell short and was broken up by Mills after Darby provided initial coverage. Jones made a good play to disrupt a potential interception. He had a harmless 6-yard reception on a crossing pattern and was tackled by Malcolm Jenkins to set up Matt Bosher’s punt. Eagles 6, Falcons 3.

Fourth possession

Started at: Eagles’ 18 after Bryan Braman inadvertently touched Bosher’s punt.

Ended: With a 6-yard touchdown catch by Devonta Freeman.

Plays: 4

Yards gained: 18

Time: 1:50

Defending Julio: Jones did not have any catches but did draw a holding call on Mills on a second-and-goal from the 13. The penalty gave the Falcons a first down. They scored three plays later. Falcons 10, Eagles 6.

Fifth possession

Started at: Atlanta 20 after Jones’ punt went into end zone.

Ended: 50-yard line

Plays: 5

Yards gained: 30

Time: 1:22

Defending Julio: Jones’ only catch was over the middle for 10 yards. He was well-covered by Darby on a pass Ryan overthrew and had another good block on a 23-yard run by Coleman. Atlanta 10, Eagles 6.

THIRD QUARTER

Sixth possession

Started at: Atlanta 20 after an 8-yard return following the second-half kickoff.

Ended:  Atlanta 24

Plays: 3

Yards gained: 4

Time: 1:45

Defending Julio: Jones was not targeted as the Eagles defense recorded its first 3-and-out. Mills made a huge play when he deflected a pass intended for Taylor Gabriel on third down. Gabriel might have scored if not for Mills. Falcons 10, Eagles 9.

Seventh possession

Started at: Atlanta 12 after a 40-yard punt by Jones into the wind.

Ended:  Eagles 46.

Plays: 10

Yards gained: 42

Time: 5:15

Defending Julio: Jones had his third catch in front of Darby, a 12-yarder on third-and-11. He took a big hit from Nigel Bradham on the play, which sent one of the players’ mouth guards flying through the air. Falcons 10, Eagles 9.

Camera icon Yong Kim / Staff
Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby (right) and cornerback Jalen Mills celebrate after a third-period stop against the Falcons on Saturday. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer

FOURTH QUARTER

Eighth possession

Started at: Atlanta 40 after Jake Elliott’s kickoff went out of bounds. Drive started with 11 seconds left in the third quarter.

Ended:  Atlanta 43

Plays: 3

Yards gained: 3

Time: 1:12

Defending Julio: Jones dropped a pass after slipping during his cut on an out route. Darby was defending. The drive was sabotaged when Rodney McLeod sacked Matt Ryan on the first play for a 10-yard loss. Eagles 12, Falcons 10.

Ninth possession

Started at: Atlanta 24

Ended: At the Eagles’ 2 in a heart-stopper of a game.

Plays: 14

Yards gained: 74

Time: 5:04.

Defending Julio: Jones had his most productive drive, but it ended with a pass that sailed through his hands with Jalen Mills covering. It was a fourth-and-goal from the 2. Jones slipped early in the play and was pinned for a second by Mills, which disrupted the rhythm of the play. Earlier in the drive, Jones had a 20-yard catch on a fourth-and-6 and a 12-yard grab. But it wasn’t enough. Final score: Eagles 15, Falcons 10.

The Bottom line

Receptions: 9

Yards: 101

Touchdowns: 0

Catches-Yards against defender: Ronald Darby 5-53, Malcolm Jenkins 1-20, zone defense 2-16, Jalen Mills 1-12

Overall grade: B+, good enough to get to the NFC Championship.

THAT FINAL PLAY

It was the most critical play of the season – and the Eagles defense was ready.

Atlanta had the ball on the two yard line. Fourth and goal. Needed a touchdown. Sixty-five seconds left. Jalen Mills said he could feel the ground shaking.

And the Eagles knew what was coming.

“As soon as I saw the tight end come over, I was like ‘there it is.’ This is everything you dream of as a player,” safety Rodney McLeod said. “You do your study. You do your preparing and they come out and run an identical play (that you practiced against). The guys did a good job at stopping it. Everybody was paying attention to details and executed the play well.”

Jones, lined up far right against Jalen Mills, slipped at the top of his route and fell to the ground. Mills stayed on him. Jones got up, but the pass sailed through his hands and the stadium exploded. Jones was targeted 16 times on Saturday and made nine catches, but the Eagles kept him out of the end zone.

“I saw No. 11 (Jones) come toward me,” said Mills, who allowed just one catch for 12 yards to Jones. “He’s the best player on their team, by far, and I knew they were going to try to get the ball to him. Both my safeties kind of called out the play.”

Malcolm Jenkins was the other safety.

The field was slippery, especially on the outside, which is where Jones lost his footing. It was a physical play in a physical game and the refs let them play.

“I ended up on the ground, you know?” Jones said. “In that situation, though, it’s very difficult for an official to call (a penalty on) that play.”

Jones had four catches for 46 yards on that final drive. But on that last play, the Eagles were prepared.

Said Mills: “You can’t do nothing but be thankful to have those veteran safeties be able to ID those formations.”

 

Camera icon Tim Tai / Staff
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) can’t make the catch as Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills (31) defends. The stop clinched the Eagles’ win over the Falcons, 15-10. TIM TAI  / Staff .

STUFF TO CONSIDER

Eight wide receivers have racked up 160 yards or more against Jim Schwartz’s defenses since 2001.  With the help of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Here’s a look at receivers who’ve had the most success against Schwartz and (below) against the Eagles all-time in postseason games.

Most Receiving Yards vs. Jim Schwartz’ defense

Recent resume: Titans defensive coordinator (2001-08), Lions head coach (2009-13), Bills defensive coordinator (2014), Eagles defensive coordinator (2016-17).

Year Rec. Yards TD Schwartz’s role
Andre Johnson, Texans 2008 11 207 1  Titans DC
Sidney Rice, Vikings 2009 7 201 0 Lions head coach
Andre Johnson, Texans 2012 9 188 0 Lions head coach
Santana Moss, Redskins 2009 10 178 1 Lions head coach
Marvin Harrison, Colts 2006 7 172 1 Titans DC
Hines Ward, Steelers 2002 10 168 2 Titans DC
Torry Holt, Rams 2005 9 163 1 Titans DC
Jordy Nelson, Packers 2012 9 162 3 Lions head coach
Most against Eagles w/ Schwartz
Odell Beckham Jr., Giants 2016 11 150 0 Eagles DC

Most Receiving Yards, Eagles opponent/Playoffs

Season/round Rec.  Yards TD Eagles’ Result
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals 2008 NFC Championship 9 152 3 Lost, 25-32
Wallace Francis, Falcons 1978 Wild Card 6 135 1 Lost, 13-14
Deion Branch, Patriots 2004 Super Bowl 11 133 0 Lost, 21-24
Herman Moore, Lions 1995 Wild Card 7 133 1 Won, 58-37
Kevin Williams, Cowboys 1995 Divisional Round 6 124 0 Lost, 11-30
Marcus Robinson, Vikings 2004 Divisional Round 5 119 1 Won, 27-14
Dennis McKinnon, Bears 1988 Divisional Round 4 108 1 Lost, 12-20
Keyshawn Johnson, Bucs 2000 Wild Card 6 106 0 Won, 21-3