Frustrating Week for Some Elite Receivers

Late in Pittsburgh’s decisive 26-9 victory over Baltimore (gamebook), semi-ignored wide receiver Antonio Brown was shown knocking over an empty water jug.  He was one of several name receivers whose afternoons were less than headline-worthy.  The play before, he had broken clean over the deep middle.  Unfortunately, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t see him, and didn’t throw him the ball.

Brown – an elite pass receiver – finished the game with just 4 catches for 34 yards, with none longer than 14 yards.  He was thrown at only 5 times in the second half.  He caught just 1 of the 5 for only 8 yards.

The reason wasn’t necessarily because Baltimore’s coverage was unsolvable.  On this afternoon, Pittsburgh beat down the Ravens with Le’Veon Bell and their battering ram running game.  Pittsburgh finished the afternoon with 173 rushing yards on 42 attempts – with Bell accounting for 144 of the yards and 35 of the carries.  Possibly not Brown’s idea of a great time, but brutally effective.

Pittsburgh is now preparing for a matchup against a suddenly interesting Jacksonville team that bears some watching.

More Frustration in Indianapolis

For three long hours in Seattle on Sunday evening, star Colt’s wide-receiver T.Y. Hilton spent more time chasing Seahawk defenders into the end zone than he did catching passes.  Hilton – who only had one pass thrown in his direction in the game’s second half – finished about where Brown did (3 catches for 30 yards).  The difficulty in Indy, though, is a bit different.  The Colt running game didn’t dominate the evening.  They only gained 98 yards on 25 attempts.  Indianapolis’ offense is currently trying to deal with the absence of unlucky star quarterback Andrew Luck, who is recovering from a torn labrium.

In to the breech is ex-New England backup Jacoby Brissett.  Jacoby had his moments, but it’s no secret that the 1-3 Colts are hoping to somehow remain relevant until they can get Luck back on his feet.

Even so, the Colts took a 15-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.  At that point, the Colts held a 205-140 advantage in total yards, and had controlled the clock for 19:56 of the half.  As late as with 2:19 left in the third quarter, this game was tied at 18.

And then, Seattle went off.

They racked up 28 points over the final 17 minutes of the game, cruising to a 46-18 victory (gamebook).  Some of the second half numbers are a little bit astonishing.  Seattle outgained Indianapolis 337-32, while averaging 8.4 yards per play (to only 1.7 for the Colts) as they hit Indianapolis with a barrage of big plays – both over land and through the air.

The Seahawk run game produced 3 second half runs of at least 22 yards (two of them touchdown runs) on their way to 158 yards in 22 carries (this was the second half alone).  Meanwhile, quarterback Russell Wilson completed 4 other passes for at least 21 yards (none of them of the dump off variety) on his way to a 13 for 17, 182 yard half.

After seeing the field for only 10:04 of the first half, Seattle held the ball for 22:08 of the second half.

Next up for the Seahawks is a match-up with the suddenly interesting Rams.  This is an early opportunity to get a feel for these two teams.

Other Star Receivers Held Off the Scoreboard

In Atlanta’s 23-17 loss to Buffalo (gamebook), superstar receiver Julio Jones and his talented teammate Mohamed Sanu were held to 3 catches for 30 yards, and 1 catch for 3 yards respectively.  Neither caught a pass in the second half.  The cause here was not so much defensive scheme (although the Bills do merit some credit) or a dominating running game, or even the efforts of a second string quarterback.  The answer here was the worst development that Atlanta could hear – injuries to both players.

Jones left with a hip flexor, and Sanu went out with a hamstring.  Atlanta gets their bye this week, and they expect to have Jones back by the next week.  Sanu will probably be out for a few weeks more.

Deprived of two of their top three receivers, the Falcon passing game looked extremely mortal.  QB Matt Ryan was only 13 for 24 after the intermission for only 107 yards.  He threw 2 more interceptions.  He was 0 for 5 on the game (0 for 4 in the second half) throwing to Taylor Gabriel – their next most talented receiver.

On the other side, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw the ball just 6 times in the second half, and only 20 times for the game.  Buffalo ran the ball 23 times in the second half, even though they gained only 3.1 yards per carry.  For the game, they ran 36 times, gaining just 3.3 yards per.  Their discipline and commitment to the running game are admirable – and, I suspect, vital to the success they have had recently.

Meanwhile, the defense did slow Jones and Sanu even before their injuries, and did a better job against the Falcon running game than the numbers suggest.  Atlanta finished with 149 yards, but 55 of those came on two bursts from Tevin Coleman.  Atlanta’s other 27 rushes managed just 94 yards.

Speaking of Injuries

There are, of course, significant injuries every week.  Jones’ doesn’t look like it will keep him out for very long.  Oakland’s 16-10 loss to Denver (gamebook) was marred by another injury to Oakland’s rising star Derek Carr.  He went out late in the third with a transverse process fracture in his back.  The recovery time is expected to be 2 to 6 weeks.

Even before Carr went down, Oakland’s offense was struggling with the Bronco defense.  In particular, for the second week in a row, the Raider running game was missing in action.  In the second half, they ran 6 times for 1 yard.  For the game, new feature back Marshawn Lynch carried just 9 times for 12 yards.  The team totaled 24 rushing yards on Sunday and has just 56 over the last two games.

With Carr gone for a while, and games upcoming against struggling teams in Baltimore and LA (the Chargers) expect to see Oakland focus on fixing their running game.

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