Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) fights off Cleveland Browns inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson after a catch in the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
The Chicago Bears had yet another banner day offensively on Sunday afternoon, racking up over 400 yards as they beat the Cleveland Browns 38-31.
Despite the gaudy numbers, there was one player who didn’t have quite the same impact that he normally does, and that was wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. He was only targeted five times by returning starter Jay Cutler, but he ended up picking up the catch on all five of those chances as he had 72 yards receiving and a touchdown in the game.
The five targets for Jeffery were the fewest he’s had in a game since he was only targeted five times in the Bears’ Week 6 victory over the New York Giants. In that game, the Bears’ receiver only had one catch for 27 yards, and also rushed for 15 yards in the contest.
Despite Cutler clearly looking for other targets in the game against the Browns, Jeffery still proved that he has a tremendous amount of value outside of just being the focal point of the offense. For example, in the first quarter of the game Jeffery carried the ball on one of his patented end-arounds, but the Browns snuffed it out for a three yard loss.
The result of that play may not have been a positive one, but the threat of the end-around ended up playing a huge role in a later successful play for the Bears. On a first down deep in Browns territory, Cutler dropped back and faked a hand-off to Jeffery on a similarly designed play to the first end-around. Biting on the fake, the Browns all began running toward Jeffery, but the deception enabled Matt Forte to get a wide open hole after he got the ball from Cutler, and he ran for 19 yards and brought the ball down to the Cleveland 6-yard line on the play.
In the second quarter, Jeffery displayed another one of his talents: blocking. On a 2nd-and-7 play from the Cleveland 48-yard line, the Bears dialed up a pitch-out to Forte going off the left side of the formation. Both Jeffery and Brandon Marshall were out front and center blocking for Forte, and the result of the play was a 15-yard gain and a first down for the Bears.
Finally, there was the play that once again had everyone talking, and that was Jeffery’s tremendous touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. On the throw, Cutler took a huge hit in the pocket that ended up being ruled a roughing the passer penalty, and the ball floated out of his hand as a result.
Seeing this, Jeffery corrected his route a little bit and came back toward the ball, and outjumped two Browns defenders to grab the ball and tumble over the goal line for the game-tying score.
It is that mix of athleticism, intelligence, and a willingness to do the little things that have made Jeffery into one of the league’s rising stars at the wide receiver position, and he had another banner day on Sunday despite his slightly-less-impressive-than-normal stat line.