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Aug 16

Making Sense of Antonio Brown’s Record-Setting Receiving Streaks

NFL Preview

If we said that we were ahead of the 8-ball midway through last season, when we gave a detailed look at Antonio Brown’s impressive reception and receiving yards streaks, we’d be lying to you. In all truth, we were ahead of the 8-ball during last year’s NFL Preview, when we claimed Brown was due for receiving regression. In the NFC North Five Factors study, it was revealed that Brown was one of just three receivers to tally at least five receptions in all 16 games. Jimmy Smith (2001) and Pierre Garcon (2013) were the others to do so in a 16-game season. Then it was revealed Brown was the first receiver to tally at least 50 receiving yards in all 16 games, joining Warren Wells (in the 14-game AFL 1969 season) as the lone receivers to achieve a clean sweep in the regular season since 1960.

Using that context, we predicted regression for Brown in the form of receptions and receiving yards in 2014. Instead, Brown improved from 110 receptions for 1499 yards to 129 receptions for 1698 yards. More impressively, he tallied at least five receptions and 50 yards in all 16 games once again. We understand that the NFL is as pass-happy as it’s ever been, but Antonio Brown is already proven as one of the most consistently effective receivers in NFL history. All you have to do is looking as his record-setting receiving streaks understand why this claim holds plenty of merit. Today, we examine those streaks and see how it’ll affect the 2015 NFL season.

You're looking at the NFL's consistent receiver... perhaps ever. (photo rights to Evan Habeeb / USA Today Sports)

You’re looking at the NFL’s consistent receiver… perhaps ever. (photo rights to Evan Habeeb / USA Today Sports)

ANTONIO BROWN’S RECORD-SETTING RECEIVING STREAKS
Three streaks will go under the microscope in today’s study. First, we look at the streak of at least five receptions for 50 yards, which was used as the basis for our attempted regression projection during last year’s preview. This is the streak we know in which he holds the record. You’ll be surprised by how many games this streak is safe, though. Second, we examine Brown’s streak of at least five receptions for 80 yards, which was first introduced during our Week 9 Headline. You’ll be surprised what other active players had a stake in this particular list. Third, we look at a newly mentioned streak in Brown’s run of at least seven receptions for 70 yards.

In 2012, Brown closed out his season with a two-reception game that accounted all of 22 yards. It occurred during a 24-10 win against the Cleveland Browns that closed out a disappointing 8-8 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. One of the receptions was the go-ahead touchdown. On the day, Brown was targeted only thrice. It was Week 17. The Pittsburgh starting receivers were Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress (during his second run with the franchise). Mike Wallace wasn’t yet bound for free agency.

Since then, Brown has yet to miss a beat with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He’s tallied at least five reception for 50 yards in a record 32 consecutive games, which long tops the list (Table 1). In fact, as you’ll see below he at least doubles all but one streak since 1960.

Table 1: Longest Streaks of 5+ Receptions for 50+ Yards, Regular Season (since 1960)

Player Span Start End Averages
Antonio Brown 32+ games G1 – 2013 ?? 7.47 receptions, 99.91 yards, 0.66 touchdowns
Laveranues Coles 19 games G4 – 2002 G6 – 2003 6.42 receptions, 94.26 yards, 0.32 touchdowns
Keyshawn Johnson 15 games G15 – 2000 G13 – 2001 7.53 receptions, 92.07 yards, 0.27 touchdowns
Herman Moore 15 games G11 – 1996 G9 -1997 7.07 receptions, 85.93 yards, 0.4 touchdowns
Herman Moore 15 games G7 – 1995 G5 – 1996 8.4 receptions, 112.2 yards, 0.8 touchdowns
Marvin Harrison 14 games G2 – 2002 G15 – 2002 9.5 receptions, 118.57 yards, 0.71 touchdowns
Reggie Wayne 13 games G15 – 2011 G11 – 2012 7.69 receptions, 98.77 yards, 0.31 touchdowns
Jimmy Smith 13 games G6 – 2001 G2 – 2002 6.85 receptions, 87.69 yards, 0.54 touchdowns
Cris Carter 11 games  G7 – 1995 G1 – 1996 8.36 receptions, 97.91 yards, 1.18 touchdowns
Johnny Morris 11 games G2 – 1964 G12 – 1964 7.91 receptions, 103.45 yards, 0.91 touchdowns
Julio Jones 10 games G1 – 2013 G5 – 2014 8.1 receptions, 113.2 yards, 0.5 touchdowns
David Boston 10 games G4 – 2001 G13 – 2001 7 receptions, 112.2 yards, 0.6 touchdowns
Marvin Harrison 10 games G6 – 1999 G15 – 1999 7.4 receptions, 105.9 yards, 0.5 touchdowns
Jerry Rice 10 games G14 – 1995 G7 – 1996 8.2 receptions, 122.3 yards, 0.7 touchdowns
Lionel Taylor 10 games G8 – 1961 G3 – 1962 7.6 receptions, 86.1 yards, no touchdowns

Source: Pro Football Reference’s Player Streak Finder

Brown’s streak is simply ridiculous. It’s currently 13 games past second-place Coles, which is the length that only seven different receivers have achieved in the past 55 seasons (with Moore achieveing it twice). Also take this into account. The widely underrated Moore was able to pull off a pair of 15-game streaks at this level in a three-year span. Including those games, he had 31 games with at least five receptions for 50 yards in a 35-game span. Brown still beats out that dominant run of receiving.

The only other receiver who had an active streak in 2014 was Julio Jones. His streak is quite notable in that it’s the only one interrupted by injury. Jones suffered a season-ending foot injury in a Week 5 Monday Night Football loss during the 2013 season. Despite that, he came back in full form in 2014. His streak ended with a four-catch game during his sixth game of the season, but he still has in tact a 24-game streak with at least 50 receiving yards. Keep an eye on Jones during our Five Factors feature for the NFC South.

Moving back to Brown, we will ramp up the per-game receiving yards threshold (Table 2) to further illustrate his recent brilliance. We published our first study the week before he held this record on his own. Unfortunately, the streak ended up the following week, when Brown “only” totaled 74 yards (on eight receptions, no less). What a shame, right?

Table 2: Longest Streaks of 5+ Receptions for 80+ Yards, Regular Season (since 1960)

Player Span Start End Averages
Antonio Brown 11 games G15 – 2013 G9 – 2014 7.82 receptions, 108 yards, 0.73 touchdowns
David Boston 10 games G4 – 2001 G13 – 2001 7 receptions, 112.2 yards, 0.6 touchdowns
Odell Beckham, Jr. 9+ games G8 – 2014 ?? 9 receptions, 132.22 yards, 1 touchdown
Julio Jones 9 games G2 – 2013 G5 – 2014 8.22 receptions, 117.33 yards, 0.44 touchdowns
Isaac Bruce 9 games G3 – 1995 G11 – 1995 7.89 receptions, 129.89 yards, 0.78 touchdowns
Michael Irvin 9 games G11 – 1996 G9 -1997 7.33 receptions, 113.67 yards, 0.67 touchdowns
DeMaryius Thomas 8 games G4 – 2014 G11 – 2014 8.63 receptions, 131.38 yards, 1 touchdown
Calvin Johnson 8 games G8 – 2012 G15 – 2012 9.5 receptions, 156.77 yards, 0.5 touchdowns
Calvin Johnson 8 games G3 – 2011 G10 – 2011 6.25 receptions, 107.13 yards, 0.88 touchdowns
Anquan Boldin 7 games G10 – 2005 G16 – 2005 9 receptions, 112.29 yards, 0.57 touchdowns
Torry Holt 7 games  G14 – 2001 G4 – 2002 7.43 receptions, 115.71 yards, 0.29 touchdowns
Rod Smith 7 games G14 – 2000 G4 – 2001 7.86 receptions, 104.71 yards, 0.57 touchdowns
Dwight Clark 7 games G1 – 1982 G7 – 1982 7.43 receptions, 107.86 yards, 0.71 touchdowns
Tommy McDonald 7 games G13 – 1961 G5 – 1962 6.29 receptions, 124.29 yards, 0.86 touchdowns

Source: Pro Football Reference’s Player Streak Finder

This streak clearly isn’t quite as dominated by Brown as the other one. In fact, Brown could lose this streak by the end of Week 3 in 2015. Enter Odell Beckham, who immediately stood out as a rookie last year despite missing the first four weeks of the season. His entry on this list shows why he won the 2014 Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He might not have been the most valuable rookie in his own division (re: Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin), but Beckham put together the most impressive stretch by a rookie wide receiver in pro football history. This is something not only to monitor for the record book, but for regression purposes in 2015.

Also of note, two others streaks were active last year. Once again, we see Jones on the list, which further supports our inkling about potential regression. DeMaryius Thomas also put together a nifty streak, which was exclusively achieved in 2014. His season was quite spectacular like that of Brown, Beckham and Jones. We’ll have more on that later, though.

As already mentioned, the streak ended for Brown during an eight-reception, 74-yard afternoon. However, those totals were part of yet another impressive NFL-record setting streak (Table 3). This is another active streak for the Steelers wide receiver.

Table 3: Longest Streaks of 7+ Receptions for 70+ Yards, Regular Season (since 1960)

Player Span Start End Averages
Antonio Brown 11+ games G6 – 2014 ?? 8.64 receptions, 107.91 yards, 0.72 touchdowns
DeMaryius Thomas 8 games G4 – 2014 G11 – 2014 8.63 receptions, 131.38 yards, 1 touchdown
Anquan Boldin 7 games G10 – 2005 G16 – 2005 9 receptions, 112.29 yards, 0.57 touchdowns
Issac Bruce 7 games G5 – 1995 G11 – 1995 8.57 receptions, 140.86 yards, 1 touchdown
Odell Beckham, Jr. 6+ games G11 – 2014 ?? 10 receptions, 140.33 yards, 1.5 touchdowns
Andre Johnson 6 games G13 – 2012 G2 – 2013 9.67 receptions, 117.67 yards, 0.17 touchdowns
Wes Welker 6 games G5 – 2009 G10 – 2009 10.17 receptions, 118.83 yards, 0.67 touchdowns
Andre Johnson 6 games G3 – 2006 G8 -2006 9.17 receptions, 99.17 yards, 0.5 touchdowns
Marvin Harrison 6 games G10 – 2002 G15 – 2002 10.33 receptions, 120.33 yards, 0.83 touchdowns
Jerry Rice 6 games G2 – 1996 G7 – 1996 7.5 receptions, 95.33 yards, 0.67 touchdowns

Source: Pro Football Reference’s Player Streak Finder

By this time, we’re seeing the usual suspects and few that we honest thought would’ve already been on the list. Therefore, let’s focus a bit on DeMaryius Thomas, who held this record for all of three weeks. He set the record in Week 12, only for Brown to eclipse it in Week 15. The brevity of the record shouldn’t take away from its impressiveness. DeMaryius Thomas led a dynamic duo of receiver the league has never seen before, and that’s something we’ll detail latter during the Five Factors feature for the AFC West.

As for Brown, he can make this streak truly special — or it may very well end soon. Regression will eventually come knocking, especially as opposing defense start to focus more resources on the consistently dangerous receiver. However, looking ahead to 2015, regression seems like small potatoes compared to the history at hand for the likes of Antonio Brown.

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