By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Matt Patricia obviously has his hands full with the Atlanta Falcons offense, the league’s top scoring offense and perhaps the biggest test of the season for the Patriots. The defensive coordinator is well aware of the many challenges his group faces with wideout Julio Jones alone.
Jones has enjoyed yet another sensational season in Atlanta, with 83 catches for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns in just 14 games. Furthermore, he’s healthy entering Super Bowl LI against the Patriots despite his issues with durability in prior seasons. His combination of size (6-foot-3), speed, and hands is frightening – to the point that Patricia can’t really compare him to any other player.
“He’s probably just one of the most dynamic players in the league,” said Patricia when asked about Jones’ skill set in his Tuesday conference call. “I usually don’t wind up comparing him to other people; I wind up comparing other people to him just because of his skill set and his ability.”
Patricia continued elaborating on Jones’ singular skill set, touching on his ability to move around the field, run different kinds of routes, and go up and get the ball – even against big corners like, say, Eric Rowe.
Jones has certainly improved his physicality since he last faced the Patriots in Week 4 of the 2013 season, when Aqib Talib mostly overpowered him. He finished that game with six catches for 106 yards, but 49 of them came on one catch on the Falcons’ final drive of the game. He had been virtually wiped out of the game up to that point.
Patricia also noted Matt Ryan’s ability to make plays with Jones based on what the defense is showing him.
“He and Matt Ryan have great chemistry where the route might be changed [because of] something that was called but because of the coverage, they’ve adjusted it and he’s been able to work himself into open space and then Ryan will get him the ball,” said Patricia.
One thing is clear about these Falcons: they are a different team than what the Patriots saw three years ago. They’re better, tougher, and smarter than they were in that 2013 game. The Patriots defense proved they could handle a dynamic quarterback-receiver tandem against the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be exposed.
With the Falcons, there’s still one more significant threat in the Patriots’ way – and it’s the biggest threat of the season.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.