In the days leading up to Atlanta's victory in Jacksonville, the coaching staff put a lot of work into fixing their red zone offense—an area that frustrated the team throughout its six-game losing streak. A big reason why the Falcons had a hard time inside the 20 was the way defenses were shutting down Julio Jones: As Kyle Shanahan mentioned during a recent Chalk Talk segment, D coordinators were going to great lengths to cancel Jones out in short-field situations, and for the most part, they were succeeding.
To counteract, Shanahan utilized a play that makes it almost impossible for defenses to follow Jones the way they want. And it worked to near-perfection against Jacksonville.
Shanahan called this play during a first and 10 situation from Jacksonville's 11-yard line. Before the snap, Jones is lined up in the slot on the left side and is set to be covered by Davon House. Fullback Patrick DiMarco is being used like a tight end; Levine Toilolo is lined up at tight end on the right side of the line.
As Matt Ryan fakes a handoff to Devonta Freeman, Jones surprises the defense by immediately running right behind the line. House is no longer in any position to trail Jones and, thanks to some great blocking by Atlanta, most of Jacksonville's front-seven is taken care of. And, because Atlanta didn't put a WR on the right side, safety Johnathan Cyprien is, at this point, the only Jacksonville DB capable of abandoning his assignment to go after Jones.
However, Cyprien bit hard on the fake handoff and threw all of his momentum in the wrong direction. He gets tripped up attempting to reverse field, which more or less takes himself out of the play. This is clearly seen in the full-speed video above.
Because the PA tricked Cyprien and the blocking remained sound, Jones is now wide open, and Ryan can easily get a pass off before the only free pass rusher, Andre Branch, can track him down.
By the time the ball is delivered, only safety Josh Evans stands in the way of six points. Jones, of course, beats Evans to the pylon and gives the Falcons a two-possession lead.
Had this play not worked out, and had the Falcons been forced to settle for a field goal on that drive, Sunday's outcome may have favored the Jaguars. But thanks to a creative playcall that was executed well from start to finish, Atlanta had the cushion needed to stave off a second-half comeback by Jacksonville and leave with a much-needed win.
"It was a really good call by Kyle, a good design," said Ryan. "We saw coverage that we liked for that situation and were able to get to that play. Whenever you can create space for Julio and get him running open—he's tough to bring down in the open field, especially when we're that close (to the end zone) ... It's important to find ways not only to create matchups for Julio, but all our guys. We have seen a lot of double coverage to Julio this year, and we understand why: because he's a great player."