People expect to see strange and scary things on Halloween, but almost no one expected to see the Bengals fall 22-20 to the Dolphins in overtime due to a safety. To add to the horror, the Bengals best defender, Geno Atkins, is feared to have torn his ACL which would sideline him for the rest of the year and deal a significant blow to a defense that has been getting banged up over the last several games.
For Halloween Andy Dalton dressed up as Mark Sanchez, throwing for three interceptions on a whopping 53 attempts for a miserable quarterback rating of 55.4. While he did throw for 338 yards on the night and completed 60.4% of his passes, he simply seemed off and so did two of his receivers, A.J. Green and Muhamed Sanu, who collectively had 4 dropped passes according to PFF.
In what could have been a frightening night for the Steelers, Browns, and Ravens — watching their divisional foe take a commanding three game heading into the weekend — the Bengals got tricked into thinking the Dolphins would be a pushover in prime time and were treated to an unexpected loss.
Norv Turner signaled out two players he expects improvement from moving forward when he answered questions before Wednesday’s practice. Greg Little, who almost perennially seems to be on the offensive coordinator’s mind for his penchant for dropping passes and Davone Bess, who before becoming a Brown was considered to have reliable hands but doesn’t seem to be living up to that billing.
How bad has it been for each player so far this season? According to PFF, who tracks drops and catch percentages (among other stats you don’t find at places like ESPN or NFL.com), Greg Little on 49 targets has dropped the ball 5 times and has a catch percentage of 42.9% with two interceptions coming from when quarterbacks throw his way. I mention interception percentage only because sometimes those are the result of tipped balls or bad route running. It’s very hard to directly cast blame on the receiver for this by just looking at the stats so it’s just something to keep in mind.
Davone Bess has caught 51.9% of the balls thrown his way on 54 targets, but also has a league high number of drops with 9, which equates to about 17% of the passes thrown his way. While throwing Bess’s way, the Browns have been intercepted once.
By way of comparison, Antonio Brown has the highest catch percentage in the division at 81.2%, Marvin Jones and Torrey Smith are tied with the least drops (none), and more passes have been intercepted throwing A.J. Green’s way than any other receiver with 5 passes being picked off. It is worth mentioning that Emmanuel Sanders also ranks high in this category with 4 passes being intercepted but with barely half the targets. For whatever reason, throwing Sanders’s way is particularly dangerous.
Do stats have your head spinning yet? Maybe I went overboard a bit, but I wanted to illustrate just how poorly Bess is doing. Greg Little isn’t doing well, but Bess is leading the league in drops and as a pedestrian catch percentage for a possession receiver. Even though Bess is under contract through 2016, if he doesn’t get his act together the Browns would be better off looking elsewhere for a guy who can reliably move the chain on third down.
Streaks are made to be broken. It’s an almost unavoidable rule to sports, and while some seem as though they may exist forever, in a league so focused on parity they rarely last for long.
The Ravens are riding one such streak having won 11 games in a row against the Cleveland Browns and hope to make it 12 on Sunday afternoon when they meet for the second time this season, this time in Cleveland.
One player in particular, Willis McGahee, was there to see the last time the Browns won but was on the opposite side of the field as he watched the Browns kicker play Plinko with the final field goal of the game which ricocheted off of the upright, past the crossbar, but hit the support column and bounced back into the field of play making it appear as if it were no good. While it was correctly ruled a field goal by the officials it seemed to usher in an era where the ball never really bounced in the Browns favor again.
Looking forward to Sunday, if the Bengals/Dolphins game is any indication for how the weekend will play out, we may very well see the end of the streak and perhaps in equally unusual fashion.
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Someone to keep an eye on is Curtis Brown, who is currently Ike Taylors’ backup at right corner, as he was excused from practice for personal reasons yesterday.
Brown, drafted in the third round in 2011, has been inactive over the past two games and presumably will miss a third game this weekend. Primarily a special teams player at this point in his career, Brown was not anticipated to have a major impact on Sunday’s action even if activated.
I say ‘keep an eye’ on this for two reasons, first being that missing practice for personal reasons after being absent for the last two games could indicate that there are some serious issues happening off the field for Brown which may become newsworthy in the near future, but more importantly it seems as though Brown is heading down the path to bust status.
As Dave Bryan at Steelersdepot.com said in an earlier article, Brown’s decline is becoming reminiscent of Limas Sweed’s inevitable exit from the team with personal issues. That, and Sweed having stone hands.