October 31, 2023   5 MIN READ

Veteran’s Day

Julio Jones' TD Catch Gave Birds Lead, Momentum Vs. Commanders


LANDOVER, Md. – Approximately an hour after the Eagles’ 38-31 win over the Washington Commanders on Sunday, the visiting locker room at FedEx Field had mostly cleared out, save for a few layovers.

There was Eagles center Jason Kelce, sprawled out on a folding chair outside of his assigned locker stall, finishing up his postgame interview.

On the other side, another straggler – record-setting wide receiver A.J. Brown – discreetly gathered his belongings from his stall. Brown had just become the first player in NFL history to record 125-plus receiving yards in six straight games.

Finally, emerging from some sector of the visiting locker room after treatment, before making his way to his stall, was wide receiver Julio Jones, whose 8-yard go-ahead touchdown catch – on the heels of a Reed Blankenship interception – served as a tangible swing of momentum in the game’s final frame.

As Jones began piecing together his postgame wardrobe, seemingly unaware of the sea of reporters converging around him, the future Hall of Famer was informed by the nearby Brown that his attention was wanted.

Eventually whipping around to face the convoy, Jones – donning an Eagles 2023 Sideline Historic 39Thirty stretch fit hat – signaled that he was ready.

“Alright,” Jones said. “Let’s do it.”

Julio Jones

GETTY IMAGES: Veteran WR Julio Jones caught his first TD as an Eagle in the 4Q against the Commanders to deliver the lead.

The media interest, of course, stemmed from Jones’ crucial fourth-quarter touchdown, his first as an Eagle.

While Blankenship initially returned possession to the offense at the Washington 15-yard line, an unnecessary roughness penalty on tight end Jeremy Bates advanced the ball to the 7.

An ensuing D’Andre Swift carry netted a one-yard loss, ultimately cueing up Jones’ moment.

With 7:22 remaining in regulation and the score knotted at 24, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts fielded the snap from Kelce from the shotgun, play-faked to Swift – luring in linebacker David Mayo and safety Percy Butler — before rifling the 8-yard pass to Jones, the primary target on the play.

Hurts fit the ball between nickel cornerback Danny Johnson and safety Kam Curl in the back of the end zone as Jones high-pointed the catch for the touchdown.

A brigade of teammates – including Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata – mobbed Jones in celebration as the Eagles captured the lead for the first time.

“It was a play we’ve been practicing,” Jones explained. “And we’d seen some looks that they were gonna give us down in the red zone throughout the week.

“Me and Jalen practice it. I mean, you couldn’t have drew it up better. They did exactly what they’ve been showing on film, and we just went out there and executed.”

The mid-fourth quarter momentum swing essentially served as the wake-up call the Eagles needed to overcome a tough start, and they never looked back.

The road victory was a byproduct of positive plays that good teams make despite adverse circumstances, finding ways to circumvent an unfathomable loss.

Intertwined within Sunday’s storyline is the contribution of Jones – signed two weeks earlier to the practice squad – delivering when his number was called, hauling in the 64th touchdown catch of his career.

Jones, who now has three targets and 31 combined snaps across two games, acknowledged the gravity of his late-game heroics, but the 34-year-old veteran kept the catch in perspective.

“I mean, it’s football,” he said. “I’ve been playing for a long time. So, it’s just like, you gotta take it one play at a time. You can’t get ahead of yourself, regardless of what happens.

“Just believe in one another. One play at a time, one play at a time. Regardless of if it’s good or bad, we gotta get the next play, get the next play, get the next play. That’s just the mentality that we have, and we came out victorious today.”

Jones has just one practice squad elevation remaining, though the Eagles might as well expedite his inevitable permanent roster status.

The veteran wideout, poised to have his bust in Canton, figures prominently into the Eagles’ offensive equation as a big-bodied red zone presence that could alleviate surveillance on Brown and tight end Dallas Goedert.

But another understated benefit of bringing Jones into the fold promises to be his mentorship, wisdom and leadership.

Instead of being the top priority of an opposing defensive coordinator each week, Jones will pay dividends in a different capacity.

Whatever his role is, however, it’s apparent that Jones quickly and clearly established belief, trust and cohesion with his new teammates.

And while there’s no blueprint to building chemistry, the natural pairings require little effort.

“Just practice,” Jones said. “Seeing it day in and day out. Having that want-to to strive for greatness. And then, you have to believe in people, too, regardless of if you don’t see it or you do see it.

“You wanna believe in somebody and know that somebody has your back, regardless. So, you’re gonna go fight for them because somebody believes in you. So, they give me extra motivation, too, to still go out there and do my job and continue to do it at a high level.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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