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Julio Jones needed to make that catch on fourth-and-goal

When Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw it up on fourth-and-goal to Julio Jones, it looked like a prayer. But it really wasn’t because he was throwing to one of the best receivers on the planet.

Would it have been a fantastic catch by Jones to win the divisional-round game against the Philadelphia Eagles? Absolutely. It would have gone down in NFL playoff history. But Jones is an All-Pro and one of the game’s superstars. Teams need their special players to be special in the playoffs, and Jones needed to catch that pass with a little more than a minute to go.

Jalen Mills (31) and Brandon Graham (55) celebrate after Julio Jones (11) cannot catch a fourth-down pass. (AP)

Instead, Jones seemed to jump just a bit early, and then tried to snatch the ball just a moment too late. It went through his hands, and the Eagles held on to a 15-10 win.

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The Falcons designed their final offensive play, which they had time to think about when Jones’ third-down catch was reviewed, to go to their best player. As Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy pointed out on NBC afterward, the play call was curious because it limited the Falcons’ options (the biggest story of the Falcons’ season has been new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, so it is fitting his final call was questioned). Atlanta had Ryan roll to the right, and for practical purposes his only option as the play was designed was Jones.

Jones fell down coming out of his break, which can’t happen to him either. That threw off the play’s timing. Ryan looked to the backside, but decided to give Jones a chance to make a play. He couldn’t.

It would have been a remarkable play, but it wouldn’t have even been on the level of Jones’ magical sideline catch in last year’s Super Bowl. Ryan’s pass wouldn’t have been catchable for every receiver in the NFL, but it was catchable for Jones. The Falcons needed their biggest star to make the biggest play of the game. He didn’t, and now their season is over.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!