FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Julio Jones knows he’s not going to make a play every time.
The NFL’s leading receiver just doesn’t want to beat himself.
In Atlanta’s overtime loss last week to Tampa Bay, Jones caught a 35-yard pass over the middle, only to have Kwon Alexander strip the ball out near midfield. The mistake led to an early field goal.
Jones finished with 12 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown that tied the score at the end of regulation, but losing his first fumble since last year’s season opener was still unsettling to the two-time Pro Bowl selection.
“If it happens, it happens,” Jones said Thursday. “You’ve just got to continue to make the next play.”
When the Falcons (6-2) visit San Francisco (2-6) on Sunday, Jones hopes the offense recovers from a four-game stretch that’s been hampered by 12 turnovers.
Atlanta won twice over the last four weeks even quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown five interceptions and three lost fumbles.
“We’ve definitely got the energy and the effort there, but turnovers can cause you to win or lose a game,” Jones said. “We’ve just got to clean them up. Other than that, we’ve still got a good football team.”
Jones is still making adjustments as defenses try different ways to contain him.
Following his torrid start in September, Jones has spent the last four games trying to beat double teams in coverage.
Opponents are using a defender underneath to limit his physicality on his slant and hitch routes, and they’re keeping a defender deep to limit his breakaway speed on go-routes and post patterns.
Putting two defenders on Jones has given more chances in the passing game for running back Devonta Freeman and tight end Jacob Tamme, who have combined for over 700 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 72 catches.
“Other guys are stepping up,” Jones said. “It’s also getting a safety out of the box and allowing us to run the ball very well.”
It’s not as if defenses are exactly holding Jones’ production down. Despite lingering hamstring and toe injuries, he still leads the league in average yards receiving, catches of 20 or more yards and yards after the catch.
But impressive numbers don’t mean much if an offense keeps struggling to hold onto the football, and every snap begins with Ryan.
“That’s part of the deal playing in the pocket — they’re going to try to take swipes at the ball,” Ryan said. “I’ve got to be a little bit better than I’ve been. In the past I feel I’ve done a great job with that, historically. I know how to get that done. I’ve just got to be a little bit more solid than I’ve been.”
Notes: SS William Moore (groin), CB Robert Alford (groin), LB Justin Durant (calf) and WR Leonard Hankerson (hamstring) were held out of practice. … CB Desmond Trufant (back), WR Nick Williams (hamstring) and C Mike Person (ankle) were limited. … Person, Durant and Alford were injured against the Bucs and didn’t return. … Moore missed last week’s game. … Hankerson has missed the last two games.