NFL Team Report - Atlanta Falcons - INSIDE SLANT
Wide receiver Julio Jones, the Atlanta Falcons' most consistent deep threat who has been emerging into one of the best receivers in the NFL, has a right foot injury that may end his season, coach Mike Smith said Tuesday.
Jones will be evaluated Wednesday by noted foot specialist Robert Anderson in Charlotte. The team is holding out hope for a more optimistic diagnosis.
"Julio injured his foot last night," Smith said. "He saw our doctors this morning. He is going to have a second opinion tomorrow over in Charlotte. The first reports were not encouraging. But we will wait to see what the second opinion comes back as."
Although the original diagnosis was bleak, Smith stopped just short of ruling Jones out for the season.
"When we have something more definitive, you guys will be the first to know," Smith said.
Losing Jones would be a devastating blow to the Falcons, who are off to a 1-4 start after reaching the NFC Championship Game last season. The team was predicted by many to be a Super Bowl contender this season.
But injuries, a developing offensive line and penalties have kept them from fulfilling that promise early in the 2013 season.
If Jones is out, he could become the eighth player added to the team's injured reserve list. The Falcons have already used their "designated to return" tag on linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
In addition to Jones (foot) and Weatherspoon (sprained foot), defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann (Achilles), fullback Bradie Ewing (shoulder), tackle Mike Johnson (ankle), cornerback Saeed Lee (knee), tight end Adam Nissley (knee), quarterback Sean Renfree (upper body) and tight end Andrew Szczerba (undisclosed) are on the team's injured reserve list.
Also out with injuries are running back Steven Jackson (hamstring), linebacker Akeem Dent (sprained right foot) and left tackle Sam Baker (knee).
Jones, even while being double- and sometimes triple-teamed, has accounted for 35.3 percent of the teams receiving yards and 26.9 percent of their catches. He leads the NFL with 41 catches and is second in the league with 580 receiving yards and 59 targets.
The injury is reportedly on the same foot that Jones ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash on with a stress fracture on at the NFL Combine in 2011. He later had a surgery that was performed by Anderson.
"Again, he injured his football in the ball game last night and was able to complete the game," Smith said. "He had a test this morning and is going for a second opinion. But the first diagnosis was not very encouraging."
Smith said the injury occurred before Jones' acrobatic 46-yard diving reception while covered by the Jets' Antonio Cromartie.
If Jones is out an extended period of time, Harry Douglas would likely start opposite Roddy White, who is trying to recover from ankle and hamstring injuries over the bye week.
NFL Team Report - Atlanta Falcons - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Falcons will play a regular-season game in London in 2014, the NFL confirmed.
The date and opponent will be determined later.
As a precursor to the NFL announcement, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority's board voted unanimously Tuesday morning to waive for 2014 a provision in the Falcons' Georgia Dome lease that requires the team to play eight regular-season games in the Dome each season. The Falcons will be permitted to drop to seven regular-season games in the Dome next season to accommodate the game in London's Wembley Stadium.
As a condition of the deal, the NFL will make the Georgia Dome "financially whole" by paying it an amount equal to what the game would have generated for the facility in net revenue if played there, GWCCA executive director Frank Poe said. The league also will make the Falcons financially whole, he said.
Given that the Dome won't lose money on the relinquished game, "we believe that it's a unique branding opportunity for the Authority as well as for the Falcons, state and city," Poe said.
The game involving the Falcons will be one of three NFL games played in London next season. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders also will play home games there next season. Opponents were not announced for any of the three teams.
"Our fans in the UK have continued to demonstrate that they love football and want more," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "Both of this year's games in London sold out quickly. The fan enthusiasm for our sport continues to grow. By playing two games in the UK this year, we are creating more fans. We hope that with three games in London next year we will attract even more people to our game."
Next season's game will be the first in Falcons franchise history to be played in London. The Falcons played preseason games in Tokyo in 2000 and 2005.
--Tight end Tony Gonzalez decided to play one final season for the Falcons because he wanted to make more run at a Super Bowl.
Instead, it's looking as if Gonzalez might endure one more disappointing season, the kind he thought he left behind when he bolted the Chiefs for the Falcons in 2009.
The Falcons lost 30-28 to the Jets on Monday night to drop to 1-4. They are long shots to even make the playoffs now, much less win a Super Bowl.
"This is something I've never dealt with as a Falcon," Gonzalez said. "I've done this in Kansas City, but I've never dealt with it as a Falcon. But the way I dealt with it in the past is - I've been here before - you've got to dig even deeper and come out ready to go because that's what is expected of you.
"I know that's what the fans expect, what the coaches expect, what the owner expects and we have to expect that of ourselves."
More than any Falcons player, Gonzalez knows what it's like to suffer through a sorry season.
In his years with the Chiefs, Gonzalez played on teams that started 1-6 and 1-4 (twice) before finishing with losing records. His 2007 Chiefs team started 4-3 before losing nine consecutive games to end the season.
--For the second time this season, a young quarterback beat the Falcons on the final drive.
Miami's Ryan Tannehill did it two weeks ago, but he was at home and he's a first-round draft pick with a year of experience. Monday at the Georgia Dome, however, it was Geno Smith doing it - and he's a second-round pick playing only because Mark Sanchez is injured.
The Jets defeated the Falcons, 30-28, on Nick Folk's 43-yard field goal as time expired. Smith completed 5 of 5 passes for 45 yards on the eight-play, 55-yard drive that took just 1:54.
"You can't put nothing past any quarterback in the NFL," Falcons safety William Moore said. "He's starting for a reason. He's a good quarterback. You've just got to give 'props' to how he stepped up today."
The final drive was indicative of what Smith had done to the Falcons all game. He finished 16 for 20 for 199 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 147.7 QB rating.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Smith is the first rookie in the Super Bowl era to total three touchdowns with no interceptions and an 80 percent completion rate on the road. That's after Smith had four turnovers in a Jets loss at Tennessee last week to bring his season total to 11.
NFL Team Report - Atlanta Falcons - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Julio Jones suffered a right foot injury, but finished the game. However, he will have further tests Wednesday that could rule him out for the season.
--LT Sam Baker (knee) did not play against the Jets, but could return against Tampa Bay after the bye week.
--LB Akeem Dent suffered a sprained ankle against the Patriots. He was held out of the Jets game.
--RB Jason Snelling suffered a concussion and did not return to the game against the Jets.
--WR Roddy White, who was already playing with a high right ankle sprain, suffered a hamstring injury against the Jets and did not return.
--QB Matt Ryan completed 36 of 45 passes for 319 yards with two touchdowns and a 111.0 quarterback rating against the Jets. Monday night marked just the second time in his career that the Falcons have lost a game when Ryan records a passer rating of 100 or better. Atlanta owns a 33-2 (.943) record in those games. Ryan has thrown for 300-plus yards in four of his last five games and posted a rating above 100 in 10 of his last 15 home games.
--TE Tony Gonzalez with a six-yard reception on Atlanta's opening drive became the second player in NFL history to post at least one reception in 200 straight games. Gonzalez joins Hall of Fame WR Jerry Rice (274) as the only two players to accomplish that feat. His last game without a catch came on Nov. 26, 2000 at San Diego. He has had at least one catch in all but five of his 259 career games.
Gonzalez finished the game with 97 yards on 10 catches. He passed WR Marvin Harrison (14,580 yards) to claim sixth on the NFL's all-time receiving list, running his career total to 14,607 yards. He is the only tight end in NFL history to amass over 14,000 yards and 1,000 catches.
--RB Jason Snelling scored his second receiving touchdown of the season on a four-yard shovel pass from Ryan. Snelling has three touchdowns in 2013, including two receiving touchdowns. He has 16 total touchdowns in his seven-year NFL career.
--RB Jacquizz Rodgers scored from four-yards out on the Falcons' first drive of the second half to cut the Jets lead to three at 17-14. The touchdown was Rodgers' first of the season and the third rushing score of his career.
Rodgers added a second touchdown in the fourth quarter when he took a draw and scampered 19-yards to the end zone. Monday night marked the first time in his career that Rodgers has posted two touchdowns in a single game.
--DE Osi Umenyiora notched his second multi-sack game of the season, dropping Jets quarterback Geno Smith twice for a combined loss of 16 yards. Monday, marked his 18th career multi-sack game and he has tallied four sacks this season. Umenyiora ranks eighth among active players with 79 career sacks.
REPORT CARD VS. JETS
PASSING OFFENSE: B - Quarterback Matt Ryan completed 36 of 45 passes for 319 yards, two touchdowns and one fumble. He a passer rating of 111. He was sacked twice and was hit four times. Ryan targeted Tony Gonzalez 14 times and he caught 10 passes for 97 yards, with a long of 15 yards. Julio Jones caught eight of his 11 targets for 99 yards. Roddy White caught all four of his targets before leaving the game with a hamstring injury. The Falcons also got 12-yard catches from Kevin Cone and fullback Patrick DiMarco.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D-plus - Jacquizz Rodgers, Jason Snelling and Antone Smith combined to rush for 64 yards on 22 carries for a 2.9 yards per carry average. Rodgers got the call on the fourth-and-1, when it seems like Snelling would have been a better choice. Snelling later left the game with a concussion.
PASS DEFENSE: F - Asante Samuel started, but clearly was not up to speed. Falcons coach Mike Smith pointed out that the tackling was not crisp on the last drive. Robert McClain missed a tackle on Jeremy Kerley's 21-yard touchdown run. McClain was distraught after the game. He's having a tough second season after shining in 2012 as the nickel back. Geno Smith completed 80 percent of his passes.
RUSH DEFENSE: C - Stephen Nicholas, Omar Gaither and Joplu Bartu started for the Falcons. When they went to the nickel, Nicholas and Gaither came out for nickel back Robert McClain and linebacker Paul Worrilow. Nicholas led the Falcons in tackles with seven. Worrilow had six tackles. The Jets rushed for 118 yards on 22 carries for a robust 5.4 yards per carry.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- They gave up a blocked punt and punter Matt Bosher was forced to make two tackles. He was called for a horse-collar penalty on his second tackle. The field goal-block unit came up empty at crunch time.
COACHING: F - Falcons coach Mike Smith didn't have a great day. His first-and-goal from the 1-yard line decision to go for it right before the half blew up on him. Those three points would have won the game. Also, he had two timeouts at the end and didn't attempt to ice Jets kicker Nick Folk. The Falcons were four of five in the red zone. The defense did send some blitzes to attempt to rattle Geno Smith, but he as poised at the end of the game.