The Seattle Times

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Atlanta Falcons Coach Mike Smith calls them 1 and 1A — his dynamic wide receiver duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones.

Many believe they are the best twosome in the NFL, though Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz of the New York Giants might have something to say about that. And if they do, the brash White had a pre-emptive answer earlier in the season when he said, dismissively, “Victor Cruz is more of a slot receiver. The big boys play on the outside.”

White and Jones are big, explosive and physical. Their success, or lack thereof, against the Seahawks’ big, explosive and physical cornerbacks, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, likely holds the key to the outcome of Sunday’s playoff game.

“Whoever wins that matchup will probably be successful on the field,” said Falcons center Todd McClure.

The Falcons know one thing: Sherman will match White for bravado. Jones’ persona is quieter, like Browner, but as people say, you have to watch out for the quiet ones. Asked Friday what he thought about Sherman’s chirping, Jones said dryly, “I don’t know. I can’t hear him talking on film.”

On the same subject, Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud said of Sherman, “Everybody has their approach to the game. He likes to mess with people’s minds and get people out of their game.”

But White said he’s not going to let that happen.

“I don’t know if he’s going to have that much time to be talking because we’re going to be getting after him,” he said.

White, 31, and Jones, 23, have become inseparable friends despite their eight-year age difference. Both exceeded 1,000 yards receiving this year, though White had his streak of four straight Pro Bowls ended. Jones, in his second season out of Alabama, was selected to his first, which gives White some big-brother pride.

“He’s a stud, man,” White said. “He’s big-time. He’s big, fast, strong. If they want to wrestle around, things like that, he’ll do that.”

White knows of what he speaks. Last season, in a 30-28 win over the Seahawks in Seattle, Jones caught 11 passes for 127 yards, while White had six for 78. But that was before Sherman became a starter.

On the other hand, it was also before Jones — whom the Falcons coveted so highly they traded up 21 spots with Cleveland to get him with the sixth pick in the 2011 draft — had his breakout year, catching 79 passes for 1,198 yards and 10 touchdowns. It was before new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter tweaked the offense, adding a screen-pass element that has opened things up for everyone.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan also has the luxury of a third dangerous receiver in tight end Tony Gonzalez, who caught 93 passes for 930 yards and eight touchdowns. Running back Michael Turner had a down season, gaining just 800 yards, but he rushed for more than 1,300 yards in each of the previous two seasons.

Gonzalez calls it Atlanta’s PYP Offense — Pick Your Poison. And White and Jones are the most potent.

“Our receivers are really, really good,” Gonzalez said. “I know their corners are really good, but you better give (White and Jones) credit, too, because these guys are going to come to play. And I’m going to come to play, and whoever has that matchup, Matt’s going to find us and we’ll try to exploit it.”

Gonzalez is in his 16th and likely final NFL season, so he has some perspective. And he can’t remember many receiver tandems better than White and Jones.

“Maybe with my butt gone, they’re going to put up even bigger numbers. It’s really something special to be playing with guys like this. They make it a lot easier for me, especially.”

Back to Sherman, Gonzalez knows exactly what to expect, and how the Falcons need to react.

“You’ve got to stay disciplined,” he said. “I’ve been around a long time. I’ve seen plenty of Shermans. He’s that style of player. You’ve got to ignore it, have some fun with it.”

It’s a matchup to savor, the corners vs. the flyers, but Jones is quick to point out, “it’s the Falcons against the Seahawks. That’s the matchup.”