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Football is the ultimate team sport until Julio Jones wrecks everything

Julio Jones dropped 300 yards on the Panthers, and showed them how futile existence really is.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Football is one of many sports that like to lie and call itself the Ultimate Team Sport (TM). Sports teams are more like specialized Rube Goldberg machines in which human beings are more like ramps and pinwheels and whirlygigs and gizmos. If everything fits correctly, the contraption accomplishes its goal. But 22 players working in perfect synchronicity isn’t the most efficient means to getting the ball to the end zone.

No, the absolute best method is hucking the ball at Julio Jones.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan set a franchise record with 503 passing yards. Sixty percent of those yards went to Jones, who had 12 catches for 300 yards to become the sixth player ever to have a 300-yard receiving day. He was 36 yards off the single game record set by Flipper Anderson in 1989. He is now the only player to ever have two games of at least 250 yards receiving in his career.

It didn’t matter who the Panthers assigned to cover Jones. He torched everyone:

For the day, Ryan was 12-of-14 passing for 300 yards and one touchdown throwing at Jones. That’s a passer rating of 142.56, which would be the second-best of any player this season.

Jones was bigger and faster and better than any player in the NFL on Sunday. Just watch his 75-yard touchdown. This is not a souped-up automaton that scientists tried to sneak into a football game but forgot to put on the “human” setting, so as not to arouse suspicion. He’s real.

And by the way, that’s the same Panthers secondary that called themselves “thieves” and led the league in interceptions last season. (The Panthers maybe should have kept a few more of those players around).

Jones gave us the most spectacular single-game performance of the season so far. It was a pure dunking, in the purest and most football sense of the word.

It is really fun to watch one man obliterate a football team

We saw this happen in so many ways in Week 4.

  • A.J. Green gave a Jones-lite performance against the Dolphins on Thursday night, catching 10 passes for 173 yards and a score, and making Andy Dalton look way better than he is. Dalton had a 146.5 passer rating throwing at Green and an 81.7 rating throwing at all others, according to NFL Research.
  • Rex Ryan’s Bills were 1-2 heading into Sunday’s game against the 3-0 Patriots, then shut them out. After the game, Ryan insinuated that he had a spy inside the Patriots’ organization who told him that rookie Jacoby Brissett would be starting the game, and not Jimmy Garoppolo. This illustrated once again Ryan’s singular gift for trolling and nothing else.
  • Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor got the better of Washington cornerback Josh Norman in the first half on Sunday after talking trash during game week. Norman stayed on him in the second half, however, and held Pryor to one catch for 4 yards, shutting down the Browns’ only extent explosive offensive player and giving Washington a pull-away win.

Individual greatness feels so special in football because the sport involves so many moving parts. Every player on every side of the ball spends hours studying minute matchups in hopes that his team will cumulatively win enough of those matchups and beat its opponent. Football coaches are miserly, rest-deprived couch sleepers because there is literally not enough time to plan completely even for one game against, like, the Jaguars. Then Allen Hurns squirrels his way through two layers of your defense, anyway, and and blows it up like he’s Luke Skywalker approaching a thermal exhaust port.

Few athletes can dominate like football players can, because one football player can make several dozen people miserable at once. Jones didn’t just embarrass Bené Benwikere, the poor corner tasked with covering him on most downs. He embarrassed Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and his staff for thinking they could scheme perhaps the best receiver in football. He embarrassed head coach Ron Rivera for actually believing in his sorry team. He embarrassed the Panthers’ front office for deciding to ride with a patchwork secondary this season.

Jones demoralized every single one of Panthers’ 53 active players, who, even if they had won a majority of their matchups, lost one matchup so thoroughly that everything else was irrelevant. He nuked hundreds of hours of painstaking preparation by his lonesome. No other sport sets such an exquisite table setting then looses so many mal-trained St. Bernard’s upon it. Jones’ game was equal measures beautiful and horrific.

Jones wrecked shit. That’s the best and only way to put it. The Panthers can rebound from this. Maybe they win the rematch in Week 16. But to do that they are going to have to reassemble themselves, piece by dismantled piece, now knowing how flimsy their contraption is. For as long as they live, they are never going to forget the time Julio Jones dropped 300 yards and revealed their futile existence.