ATLANTA -- Julio Jones is back.
He didn't necessarily go anywhere. But the Atlanta Falcons couldn't ever find great opportunities to get him the ball. That changed on Sunday as the Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-20 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for their third straight win.
The Falcons offense was dominant early thanks to Jones. Out of the wildcat, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Jones for his second touchdown of the season.
On the next drive, Matt Ryan threw 25 yards to Jones to put the Falcons up 17-3. Jones cut around the defense and dove into the end zone to hit the pylon.
🚨 JULIO JONES IS GOING OFF 🚨 pic.twitter.com/OXSGSoBtUh— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) November 26, 2017
Matt Bryant's second field goal of the day came just before halftime, and the Falcons came out strong in the third quarter. Tevin Coleman rushed 3 yards for a touchdown. Jones even helped with the running game on a jet sweep since the Falcons are without Devonta Freeman. Freeman is in the concussion protocol.
julio was in no rush to leave the field today pic.twitter.com/RdyZPnvfZ5— Alex Glaze (@Alex_Glaze) November 26, 2017
Jones had 12 catches for 253 yards. His touchdown total this season is three after having just one in the first 11 weeks. It's a season-high in yards and touchdowns this season, and it is his best game since his 300-yard performance against the Carolina Panthers last October.
Ryan completed 26 passes on 35 attempts for 317 yards.
But the Falcons still had trouble finishing and nearly gave up their lead.
After corner back Desmond Trufant left the game with a head injury in the second quarter, the Bucs offense began to roll even without starting quarterback Jameis Winston who is nursing a shoulder injury. Brian Poole also left the game with a back injury. C.J. Goodwin replaced Trufant.
Patrick Murray made a 27-yard field goal before halftime. Peyton Barber rushed 2 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, and then in the fourth Barber punched it in again to cut the Falcons lead to a touchdown.
Barber had five carries for 7 yards. He is a graduate of Milton High School in Georgia. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was 26-of-43 for 273 yards.
After a punt, the Falcons offense was moving down field thanks to another catch from Jones, but Coleman had the ball stripped by Kendell Beckwith, and former Falcon Brent Grimes recovered it. But the Bucs couldn't convert on short third and fourth down conversions, and Coleman was able to finish the next drive with a touchdown.
Coleman had 97 yards on 19 carries, both season-highs.
The Falcons remain in the playoff picture with the win. They sit in a wildcard spot while the New Orleans Saints lead the NFC South. The Carolina Panthers sit in the other NFC wildcard spot.
Next week, the Falcons host the Minnesota Vikings.