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Breaking down Johnson's one-catch game

Sunday's win over the Baltimore Ravens was one to forget for Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson.

Targeted six times by EJ Manuel, he finished with just one catch for minus-1 yard. And for the second consecutive game, Johnson had less offensive snaps than receiver Robert Woods, a rookie.

At least on the surface, it wasn't the sort of performance the Bills would like from their quarterback-top receiver combo.

Part of it may be due to injury. Johnson hurt his hamstring a week ago against the Jets, and also came up holding his wrist on one play in that game. He sat out Wednesday's practice and was limited the rest of the week.

But because of injury or otherwise, Johnson's play has dropped off a bit the past two games. In Week 2, Johnson snagged eight of 10 targets for 111 yards and a touchdown. He caught six of 13 targets for 86 yards (although that led the team) in Week 3, and had just the one catch on Sunday.

It's far too early to sound the alarm on Johnson, as you don't have to look past Woods to realize that things can turn around quickly. The second-round pick caught just two of 10 targets in Week 3 before having his best game to date on Sunday (four catches for 80 yards and a touchdown).

But since Johnson is a player, who over the long haul, needs to contribute significantly to the Bills' offense, it's worth digging deeper into his six targets Sunday and taking notes to see if any problems carry forward.

Here's a play-by-play look at his performance Sunday:

  1. Incomplete pass on 1st-and-10 from Baltimore 41-yard line (9:22 in first quarter) -- Johnson is open on inside slant route, but Manuel's throw is behind him. Johnson gets his hands on the ball, but can't make the catch.

  2. Incomplete pass on 2nd-and-12 from Baltimore 30-yard line (7:33 in second quarter) -- This was a play-action pass with some roll-out action on Manuel, but he ended up rolling into pressure from Terrell Suggs. He was hit as he threw and his pass sailed over Johnson, who was open down the right sideline, near the pylon.

  3. Incomplete pass on 3rd-and-4 from Buffalo 45-yard line (4:48 in second quarter) -- This was a designed quick-strike pass from the shotgun on third-and-short. The protection was good and Johnson had a clean break off the line of scrimmage. However, Manuel's pass, intended for Johnson over the middle, came in before Johnson broke in his route. After the play, Manuel motioned towards Johnson, suggesting that there may have been a mis-communication.

  4. Completed pass for gain of minus-1 on 3rd-and-8 from Buffalo 22-yard line (14:02 in third quarter) -- Not a whole lot went right on this play. It was a designed bubble screen to the left, with Johnson behind Woods in a two-receiver stack. There was also a play-action element, with Manuel faking an inside draw to Fred Jackson. The problem was Jackson was aligned to the left of Manuel, so the right-handed rookie QB had to wait until Jackson cleared toward the line of scrimmage before throwing to Johnson. His pass came in high, slowing down Johnson off the catch, while Woods couldn't block his man.

  5. Intercepted pass on 3rd-and-8 from Buffalo 14-yard line (11:23 in third quarter) -- Another third-and-long from the shotgun, the protection was solid, opening a passing lane for Manuel on his throwing side (the right). Johnson was part of a three-receiver stack to the left side, again breaking towards the middle of the field. This time, Johnson broke in his route and was open, with two Ravens defenders breaking towards him. Manuel was late to react but his throw still came in on-target. It bounced right off Johnson's hands and into those of linebacker Daryl Smith.

  6. Incomplete pass on 3rd-and-5 from Baltimore 47-yard line (8:59 in third quarter) -- This time on third-and-short, Manuel was under center, with Johnson the lone receiver to the left against press coverage. Manuel had good protection, a passing lane, and Johnson was able to shake Corey Graham off the line. However, Johnson's route broke inside after only one yard, so Manuel held onto the ball, waiting for Johnson to cut downfield (another three yards were needed for the first down). By that time, Graham had recovered and a Ravens safety was closing from the inside. Manuel sensed the safety and threw behind Johnson, but he wasn't ready for that placement of the ball, stumbling backwards and unable to make the catch. This is one of those tough throws that needs to be made in a small window, and Manuel might have been a tad late.