Atlanta receiver Julio Jones caught seven passes Sunday but only three for 40 yards came when directly covered by Seattle's Richard Sherman.
So why was Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman so mad during Sunday’s eventual 26-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons?
Sherman said the reason for his anger was miscommunication that led to a 36-yard Matt Ryan touchdown to Julio Jones in the third quarter, and nothing else.
What Sherman said was not an issue was not being assigned to follow Jones everywhere, as many had thought before the game would happen.
“No,’’ Sherman said when asked if his anger was in part due to not covering Jones — who two weeks ago had a 300-yard game against Carolina — on every play. “It was miscommunication on that play and things that didn’t get communicated according to plan and that’s what happens.’’
Sherman did often trail Jones, but not on every play.
It appeared that Sherman covered Jones almost every time Jones lined up wide on either side of the field (recall that Sherman has typically lined up on Seattle’s left side of the field when not assigned a specific receiver). When Jones was in the slot, Sherman typically appeared to then cover the outside receiver to that side. One exception? It appeared Sherman several times on third downs moved inside to cover Jones.
Ultimately, the Falcons targeted Jones nine times, with Jones making seven catches for 139 yards, becoming the first receiver this season to break the 100-yard mark against Seattle.
By my count, Jones made three catches for 40 yards when covered by Sherman. Two other targets came with Sherman covering Jones. The rest appeared to come against zone defense.
Here’s a breakdown:
First target: Jones lined up wide left with Sherman in man coverage and ran what looked like curl route, with Matt Ryan then hitting Jones for 11 yards downfield. The catch gave Atlanta a first down on a second-and-7 from the Seattle 39.
Second target: On the very next play, Jones again lined up left with Sherman in man coverage and ran a little slant route breaking open inside of Sherman and catching a pass for 14 yards. The two passes set up an Atlanta field goal.
Jones ended the first half with two catches for 25 yards on two targets.
Jones ended up having an insane third quarter with five catches on five targets for 115 yards.
Here’s a look at each pass.
Third target: On first-and-10 from the Atlanta 49 on the Falcons’ first series of the second half, Jones lined up slot left with Sherman initially lining up across from him. But Jones then ran a crossing route against what appeared to be a zone defense with Sherman letting him go, and Jones broke wide open for a 15-yard pass, eventually pushed out of bounds by Jeremy Lane.
Fourth target: So here’s the controversial touchdown, which came two plays after the play listed above, snapping with 11:07 left in the third quarter and the Falcons having a second-and-10 at the Seattle 36. Jones initially lined up as the widest receiver left but in the slot, with Sherman covering him. Then tight end Austin Hooper came in motion from the right of Atlanta’s formation to the left, and lined up outside of Jones. Sherman moved over to take Hooper, leaving Jones in the slot, initially covered by Kelcie McCray. Jones ran a few steps diagonally toward the sidelines and behind McCray, who appeared to think he had zone help behind him from Earl Thomas. But Jones broke wide open and Ryan drilled a the throw there with Thomas barely getting there in time to tap Jones as he got into the end zone. Thomas stood shaking his head undoubtedly at the same miscommunication that had Sherman so upset, and the implication seems pretty obvious that McCray was supposed to cover Jones instead of letting him go.
Fifth target: On first and 10 at the Atlanta 21 on the Falcons’ second series of the third quarter, Jones lined up to the right with Sherman initially across from him. But Jones motioned to the left side and Sherman stayed on the right with DeShawn Shead then lined up across from Jones. Jones broke across the field against what appears to be a zone and caught a pass over the middle for 24 yards with McCray eventually making the tackle.
Sixth target: On the next play, Jones was lined up left with Sherman in man coverage. Jones stumbled but broke inside of Sherman on a slant pattern and caught a Ryan pass for 16 yards.
Seventh target: On a first and 10 play with 1:57 left in the third quarter, Jones initially lined up slot left opposite Sherman. But he then motioned right and Sherman stayed on the left side, with Shead picking up Jones on the right side. Ryan faked a handoff then hit Jones on the right sideline for 24 yards. This helped set up Atlanta’s final touchdown.
Eighth target: Jones didn’t get a target again until 3:57 remained in the game when he lined up wide left with Sherman in man coverage. Jones broke in on a slant route and into the open but a pass that was a little bit wide went off his hands and eventually picked off by Earl Thomas.
Ninth target: And here’s the controversial last Atlanta pass of the game. Jones lined up slot left with Sherman in tight man coverage.Jones broke past Sherman initially and down the middle of the field. But by the time the pass arrived Sherman closed (and depending on which side of the field you’re on, got too close) with Thomas also converging to force an incompletion that ended the game.