For the first time in 35 regular season games, Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown failed to record at least five receptions for 50 yards, a record streak and model of consistency that figures to stand for some time, given the distance that he has since put between himself and the next-longest such streak.
The failure to achieve this feat came in the first start made by 35-year old quarterback Michael Vick in the black and gold, whose team fell to the Ravens 23-20 in a brutal overtime loss in which they held a three-point lead late and missed a field goal before giving up a field goal the other way to extend the game beyond regulation.
Brown’s record streak began more than two years ago, in the season opener of his fourth year in the league in 2013. He caught at least five passes for 50 yards in every game in 2013, every game in 2014, and in the first three games of the 2015 season.
It was clear that Brown does not have the same rapport with Vick as he does Ben Roethlisberger, as the two have one of the most synchronous connections in the game, and the role that their relationship has played in the receiver’s historic consistency streak has no doubt ben undersold.
Brown was only targeted on nine passes by Vick, catching five of them. Brown had at least nine catches in each of his first three games this season, and his five catches netted him just 42 yards in the process, with a long reception of 17 yards.
Not that the receiver isn’t without fault himself, of course. Early on, it seemed clear that he was determined to try to make something happen with every touch, overcompensating for the losses on offense without Roethlisberger.
On his first reception, he turned upfield to hope to find daylight in the opposite direction, but the Ravens were on him and were able to drop him for a five-yard loss. The Steelers went three and out on that drive, which concluded with a third-down pass to Brown that essentially regained the yardage that he had lost.
After the defense came away with an interception to stick a fork in the Ravens’ ensuing drive, Vick nearly hit Brown on the first play for what could have been a 36-yard touchdown. While it would have been an impressive play all around, the ball was ultimately delivered on target and went through the receiver’s hands.
The worst play between Brown and Vick, however, came late in overtime, as the quarterback attempted to convert a fourth and one pass to Brown in the right flat, but badly overthrew him. In spite of the receiver getting plenty of separation for what should have been an easy pitch and catch, Brown could barely get a finger on the pass by leaping.
The Ravens ultimately drove down the field to kick the winning field goal as the game went down in flames, much as Brown’s historic, though somewhat arbitrary record. It’s no surprise, however, that the record fell in a game that the Steelers lost.