Julio Jones is a big-game player who’s consistently stepped up for his team in the biggest moments. A wide receiver who’s had a game of 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns in an NFC Championship Game on two separate occasions, and someone who made THE play to win the Super Bowl (until that was undone by an unwillingness to run the football immediately afterward).
We’ve known for a long time that Jones is one of the most clutch players in football; now the rest of the league is taking notice. Pro Football Focus graded him out as the best wide receiver in the fourth quarter of one-score games last year.
Julio Jones was the league's highest-graded WR in the 4th quarter of one-score games last year pic.twitter.com/v6mIRm7JTV— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 23, 2019
The situational stats compliment PFF’s assessment of Jones in clutch time (that’s what we’ll describe as in the fourth quarter and within seven points from here on out) — 424 of Jones’ league leading 1,677 receiving yards came in the fourth quarter of one-score games in 2018. His average yards per reception also skyrocketed to 22.3 in said scenario, while his percentage of receptions which went for first down was an astonishing 89.5% (17 of his 19 receptions went for first downs).
Julio consistently found a new gear in the fourth quarter in general, last season. Out of all four quarters, he tallied the most receptions (36), yards (666), touchdowns (three), catches of 20+ yards (nine — with eight of them coming in one-score games), catches of 40+ yards (two), and first downs (29) in the fourth quarter.
Even when comparing Jones to the second player on PFF’s 4th quarter list, New Orleans’ Michael Thomas, there really isn’t much of a comparison. In clutch time, Thomas tallied 236 receiving yards, two catches for 20+ yards, and 12 first downs. Respectable numbers for sure, but all are dwarfed by Jones’ figures, despite the fact that Thomas had 20 receptions to Julio’s 19 in that same scenario.
To be fair, Thomas did score more touchdowns (four to one) in clutch time, but his average yards per reception was nearly half of Julio’s (11.8 ypc against 22.3 ypc) and the 60% of catches which went for first downs pales in comparison to Jones’ 89.5%.
Aside from touchdowns, Julio actually beat Thomas out in every major statistical receiving category in the entire fourth quarter: total yardage — 666 to 364; yards per catch — 18.5 to 10.1; first downs — 29 to 20; first down percentage — 80.6% to 55.6%; catches of 20+ yards — 9 to 3; and touchdowns — 3 to 5. It should be noted that each player had exactly 36 receptions in the fourth quarter in 2018.
Thomas did also add three receptions for 38 yards in overtime periods in 2018, which is one fewer reception and two more yards than he had in the entire NFC Championship Game, which also went to overtime. Having an opportunity to add to his overtime numbers (and potentially make it the Super Bowl) with the Saints getting the ball first, Thomas instead flailed his arms looking for a flag in a very unclutch moment where Drew Brees was intercepted.
What a player does with the game on the line is what sets him apart as one of the greats. No wide receiver in football did more in clutch time in 2018 than Julio Jones.