John Brown leads the Ravens at their bye week in receiving yards (601) and touchdown catches (four), but the wide receiver has endured a rough stretch recently.
In his past two starts, Brown has caught a total of six passes for 44 yards and zero scores. On Sunday, he had three receptions for only 15 yards in a 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brown, who caught three passes for 116 yards and one touchdown in the team’s 26-14 victory over the Steelers in Week 4, said after Sunday’s game that he noticed Pittsburgh had altered its defensive plan to keep him under wraps.
“One of the things, for me, is I got bracketed a lot,” he said. “[Cornerback] Joe Haden followed me, and they had help over the top. They basically took me out of the game plan. That’s just something we have to figure out and get right.”
Haden confirmed Brown’s observation, adding: “We tried to keep Brown in the box and not let him get over the top like he did last time. We paid a lot more attention to him.”
Willie Snead IV led the Ravens in receptions (seven) and yards (58) against the Steelers, but coach John Harbaugh said the formula for finding Brown for significant gains involves a couple factors.
“One of the big things to get the ball down the field is you have to protect,” he said. “So the last week or two has been a problem for us, with some of the injuries that we’ve had. We haven’t been able to protect long enough. We’ve had him come open a couple times where we just didn’t have time to get him the ball. That’s one thing.
“The second thing is people are playing zone coverage a lot of times in those kinds of situations — early down, play-action situations — where they are playing deep. They’re forcing us to hit the tight ends. We’ve had a couple times, and Joe just has to read that top down and throw it to where the opportunity comes.
“The third thing is that man-to-man coverage, at times, has played well against us. So we’ve got to break down man. Whether it’s John or anyone else, you’ve got to break down man coverage, and you’ve got to beat it and drive them out of man coverage.”