CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Julio Jones didn’t know what to expect when Panthers safety Kurt Coleman ran over to him after he’d just dropped an easy touchdown pass in the end zone.
Instead of rubbing it in his face, Coleman put his arm around him and told Jones, ”Glory to God.”
Jones said he had never met or talked to Coleman before that play.
”I guess he’s a very spiritual guy,” Jones said. ”He said some spiritual things to me – that was it.”
No taunting. No antics. Just empathy for a competitor.
Coleman has received positive feedback on social media for his sportsmanship, but downplayed it this week in the locker room.
”No one felt worse than he did,” Coleman said of Jones. ”… In a society where we often criticize others or chastise other people for making mistakes, we forget that we often make our own.”
It was an unusual display of a sportsmanship between intense division rivals.
Carolina had won three straight NFC South championships before the Falcons wrestled the title away last season. Sunday’s game had huge implications in the division standings with both teams chasing Drew Brees and the first-place New Orleans Saints.
”Let’s not get this wrong, I’m not going to apologize for him dropping the ball,” Coleman said.
Not one expects that. But no one expected Coleman’s reaction either, including Jones. The Atlanta wideout said he was taken aback by Coleman’s graciousness.
The Falcons were trailing 20-10 in the fourth quarter when Jones got behind safety Mike Adams by more than 10 yards on fourth down. He looked over his shoulder to catch Matt Ryan’s pass, but inexplicably dropped the ball.
It was a catch Ryan would later say Jones makes ”100 out of 100 times.” The Falcons would score later in the fourth quarter, but Carolina held on to win 20-17 as Jones’ drop loomed large.
Coleman, who was not involved in the play, ran some 25 yards just to talk to Jones.
”I saw his body language,” Coleman said.
Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who attends the same church as Coleman, said the gesture ”epitomizes what type of person Kurt is.”
Some Carolina teammates were surprised when they heard what the hard-hitting free safety did.
”You’ve got to know what type of person he is,” Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. ”He’s a spiritual guy. I’m a spiritual guy, too – but I don’t think I would have done that at that point in time.”
Coleman said nothing made him do it.
”We’ve all been in position where things haven’t gone our way,” Coleman said. ”I offered encouragement. … I told him after the game he’s a great receiver, I respect him, I respect his game. He makes me play hard.”
It was Jones’ first drop in the end zone since 2012, and he was clearly upset with himself after the mistake. Compounding matters, Jones has just one touchdown catch in what has been a frustrating season for the defending NFC champion Falcons (4-4).
”As a player respecting another player and how great he is,” Coleman said. ”I just wanted to tell him, `Glory to God, man, in all things.”’
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