Film Room: Antonio Brown Gets Vertical In Monster Performance

Antonio Brown doesn’t look like much. 5’10, 195 pounds. Definitely not someone who profiles as a vertical, sideline threat. But three times Sunday night, he beat the Baltimore Ravens exactly that way.

We’re going to highlight the three ways Brown wins vertically.

1. Release off the line
2. Separation at the top his route
3. Flashing late hands

And yet again, he’s proven why he’s the best in the world. Let’s dive in.

The first one comes early in the second quarter. Brandon Carr is rolled up in a press technique. Brown uses an Inside jab step and then burst outside to get the cornerback off balanced, Carr slightly opening his hips to the inside before having to react and flip.

Off the line, Brown has created space and is able to work upfield, attempting to stack Carr and get on top of him.

At the top of his route, Brown pushes Carr off with his inside arm. Real-time and from farther away, it’s hard for the ref to see and receivers always get this kind of leeway with the corner. That helps create space at the top of Brown’s route.

And then Brown finishes the rep. Knowledge of where he’s at in relation to the sideline, getting both feet in. Late hands, putting them out at the last second. Carr has no idea when the ball is about to land and can’t make a play on the ball. Terrific throw by Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t give him much of a chance anyway. Big completion.

Full look at it.

Similar story on this second one. Carr again in a bail/run off technique, back to the sideline, and Brown has a free release. Burst straight upfield off the snap until he’s nearly even with Carr, then stem outside to get width and try to stack him. Stick the inside arm out to create space, fade away at the top of the route, flash late hands to make the grab.

And then the biggest of the night, third down late in the game. Carr is again rolled up like the first play. He flips his hips and is more balanced than the first clip but tries to bump Brown at the line. Bad idea. Brown is too strong, too well-built and balanced, and again, uses his inside arm to push off and swap hips.

From there, Carr is forced to trail. And Brown again flashes late hands so Carr has no idea when the ball is going to be there. Fade away at the end for an extra inch of space and finish the catch.

It’s important to stress all three of these are magnificent throws by Ben Roethlisberger. On time and correct placement, where only Brown can make the play. And make the play he did. Three times vertically. Winning with technique on all of them. And putting in another all-time performance.

Maybe that’s how they will introduce him at his Hall of Fame Induction.

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • mem359

    His push-off reminds me of what Michael Jordan used to do in the NBA. The nudge is just to get the defender to slow down, or slightly off balance. Since the arm isn’t extended and the defender is still close by, no foul is called. But then he makes a move and is able to get separation from the slowed-down opponent.

  • PghDSF

    Ben was on fire with those throws. AB is hands down the best in the NFL.

  • NinjaMountie

    As great as AB was you have to acknowledge that Ben was just dropping those passes into a bucket. Every one was spot on.

  • CountryClub

    I was surprised he ran out of bounds on the 2nd and 3rd completions. Certainly looked like he could have kept running when I watched last night. And I still feel that way after watching these clips. But whatever, I’m not complaining.

  • The Tony

    Gotta love how John Harbaugh complained about offensive pass interference’s coming out of the half.

  • Rob S.

    I definitely thought that in the 3rd one, but I also thought it was a smart play (if that was his intent). Don’t score and leave time. Go out, run clock, get closer, and kick with no time left. Unfortunately he could have gone anther 20 yards first.

  • Gloria Burke

    Ahhh, chemistry…It’s such a beautiful thing. Ben was hugely impressive. Took some shots, called some audibles, got away with one stupid throw in crunch time, but mostly, presented like it was just a good day at the office. AB is AB. I take him for granted until I watch these clips. Then I’m reminded of how special he is.

  • Michael Conrad

    LOL Brown lets the CB grab first which lets him stick out his arm at the end to get separation the Ref can’t call Brown because the DB grabbed him.

  • pittfan

    His timing on that jab is perfect.

  • StolenUpVotes

    Easily a top 3-4 guy to ever play the position

  • Chris92021

    His accuracy in the last 3-4 games has been epic. Typically I am smiling whenever Big Ben starts screaming at guys after an incompletion (typically at Bryant and Rogers, rarely at AB) because Big Ben knows he’s on fire and only the receivers running the wrong routes or running the routes poorly or dropping the perfect throw makes him (Big Ben) look bad. Big Ben typically does the head shake and the head down as he heads to the sidelines after an incompletion but when he’s on fire, he’s also more emotionally charged. I only hope his accuracy continues to grow in the next 6 games.

  • Conserv_58

    A.B. is a phenomenal player that happens to be a human highlite reel. He consistently puts forth breath taking performances. Now just imagine if A.B. didn’t have Ben throwing him the ball and visa versa. They were made for each other and their individual greatness will go down in NFL history as one of the most dynamic QB/WR duos to have ever played the game. They have the utmost trust and respect for each other. I am so glad that I am witnessing a QB and WR on the same team become inducted into the HOF.

  • Conserv_58

    It’s a Harbaugh thing.

  • Alex Kozora

    Momentum is partially to blame, drifting him out. He’s probably used to being so close to the sidelines anyway on those catches that the focus is just getting both feet in.

  • Steelerman24752

    Did anyone else notice Brown getting on to Bryant after catching the crosser? Brown wanted to turn it up and Bryant wasn’t blocking his man. Also on Bryant it didn’t seem to me like he was running at full speed on anything.

  • Chris92021

    Definitely noticed that. Typically Bryant is a willing blocker. I mean, no one will ever confuse him with JuJu but Bryant does a decent job. On that one, he did not seal the edge for AB to get around it and I am glad AB called him out on it.

  • Jones

    Agreed. I was hoping that MB would step up, but instead he appears to have taken a small step back in this game. He had some clutch catches over the last two, but save for a couple of decent completions (1 or 2 for a 1st down, I think), he was almost invisible.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Exactly. The play execution starts with the QB. It was perfect as that ball was placed precisely where it needed to be in stride allowing the WR to lift his hands at the very last second possible. Which allows the wide receiver to not waste any momentum or extra moves. Allows the receiver to be efficient as opposed to playing Centerfield out there which allows the defensive back to catch up with the receiver once receiver beats the DB off the line. This is what I’m talking about. Roethlisberger on point with AB

  • Jaybird

    Michael Irvin was one of the best I ever saw at pushing off and getting away with it. Irvin was a master at it.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    This opening of the hips comment is overused. Every DB has to open hips off the back pedal. It’s less about the open hips but more about how Brown puts the defender on his heels instantly. Browns very very good at initial hand fight off the line forcing a defenders momentum backwards. Brown is one of the most elusive receivers I’ve ever seen off the line. And he’s in his run well before the DB. It’s like he’s 0 to 60 quicker than the defensive back instantly off the line. It’s impossible to Jam Brown. You almost have to guess where Brown is going. And brown has mastered the push off when the defender does catch up. But if you can’t Jam Brown you have to guess then get perfect body positioning. Taller DB’s like Sherman give him problems because they can close the gap with their length especially if the taller DB is fast. Brown is very hard to defend especially with a well-placed ball.

  • Alex Kozora

    Part of why he is on his heels is because he’s trying to flip back around after Brown stems inside off the line. Carr isn’t balanced, which was my point, and Brown easily swaps hips and is able to stack him. That was what I was getting at.

  • Matt Manzo

    Yup! It’s not a Ravens game unless Harbaughs whining!

  • Troy Day

    The 1st time (caught out of bounds in the end zone if memory serves) shows AB is human, he does everything really well, but the ball carries him out of bounds and he does not know that he needs to drag the toe.

  • capehouse

    The 2nd one he pushes off around 5 yards from the LOS, so it looks like a legal play, but the 1st one I don’t know how he got away with. That’s a big push off almost 20 yards downfield.

  • NYCSteelCurtain

    MB willing blocker. Mmm idk about that.

  • Chris92021

    Well, he tries lol….he doesn’t try to make business decisions too often.

  • Louis Hensler

    This. I think AB gets away with the jab because each time he executes it in immediate response to a subtle hold by the defender. The ref probably sees it as incidental contact between the two players. If he’s going to call the push, he has to explain why he’s not calling the hold.

  • Louis Hensler

    AB’s timing is perfect. He waits until Carr reaches out to slow him with a subtle hold to push Carr’s arm (and body) away. It looks like mutual downfield hand fighting, and AB just wins the fight.

  • capehouse

    It was definitely mutual as Carr reaches out and grabs AB’s jersey, but a little more subtle then AB extending his elbow out up high and pushing off. Both could have been called.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Yep. I’d agree with that. That inside stem stab type step is what makes brown so clever. Brown absolutely refuses to be jammed at the line. He’s one of the most determined WRs I’ve ever seen. Absolutely refuses to be rerouted or redirected. It’s amazing to see because Brown does the same thing with every Defender. He gets them off balance or absolutely leaves them standing with his quickness. So if the DB can’t Jam Brown at the line, which most can’t it makes for a long day for a Defender.