He was playing with a sore hamstring, but Julio Jones kept racking up catches and the Giants' defensive backs kept pounding the Falcons receiver as he came across the middle again and again. Even without injured cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Giants' secondary was doing a good job of minimizing the damage.
The Falcons hadn't asked Jones to push his hamstring on a deep route, but down by three points with 1:53 left, they asked, and Jones gave it to them. He beat Prince Amukamara and laid out for a 37-yard pass from Matt Ryan at the Giants' 1-yard line.
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Two plays later, it was game, set and match as Devonta Freeman's 2-yard TD run gave the Falcons a 24-20 victory Sunday. For the second straight week, the Giants had it until they didn't have it after a failed two-minute drill.
Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo called an all-out blitz, leaving Amukamara with no help against one of the best wideouts in the NFL. Was it too much to ask?
"There's 7 million reasons why that's not a lot to ask," Amukamara said, referring to his salary. "I was drafted first round to be that guy, and the Giants are paying me to be that guy. So they expect it.
"I always say the highest-paid guy on the field should never get help. You're not going to double-team [with] that guy, and in that situation, I don't expect it."
That final catch by Jones was his 13th of the game, tying a club record set by former tight end Tony Gonzalez, and it easily was his biggest gain during a 135-yard day, although it still wasn't as acrobatic as a leaping, one-handed catch he made for a 10-yard gain near the end of the third quarter. Amukamara admitted he was looking for yet another short one.
"A dart is just like one step in," Amukamara said. "They had been doing that a lot . . . I was playing for that. I just have to make a better judgment. He just released outside, and Julio is a 4.3, 4.4 [40-yard dash] guy. If he has one step and no one gets hands on him on the line, he's going to go. That was the case."
Jones ran well despite the hamstring injury, several Giants defensive backs agreed. They kept putting big hits on him, and he just kept coming. Jones' 13 receptions were the most against the Giants since Dallas' Jason Witten caught 18 on Oct. 28, 2013.
"We know all that [about Jones' injury], but a guy like that is going to play," said corner Jayron Hosley, who replaced Rodgers-Cromartie. "It's not like a hurt dog where you've got him cornered in. He's going to fight."
Amukamara knew he was in trouble as soon as Jones eluded him. "Just by his release, I could tell he was getting the ball, so I had to hop on my horse," Amukamara said. "I tried to play with his arms to slow him down, but he's a strong guy. Matt Ryan put it out there, and Julio had to lay out for it. It was a good throw and catch."
A great player made a great play, and it came as a stake through the heart of the Giants' defense for the second straight game. "Last week, we had [the Cowboys] beat, and this week, we had them beat," Hosley said of the Falcons. "We could have done better and put our team in a better position to win, but we didn't and it hurts."