NFL: AFC News and Notes

Big passing plays reap benefits.

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BIG PASSING PLAYS REAP BENEFITS

NFL offenses that consistently make "big plays" in the passing game loosen up defenses and provide the offense a multitude of options.

"It's a lot easier for the offense when you can move the ball 40 yards in one play than it is to execute six or seven plays in a row," says Denver Broncos quarterback KYLE ORTON, who leads the NFL with seven completions of 40-plus yards in 2010. "It takes the pressure off the offense if you're able to get some big plays during the course of a game."

Cincinnati Bengals head coach MARVIN LEWIS is a believer. Lewis relies on wide receivers TERRELL OWENS and CHAD OCHOCINCO to stretch the field for the Bengals' offense. Owens (63) and Ochocinco (39) rank in the top five for the most receptions of 40-plus yards among active players.

"When you have a deep threat in your passing game, defenses have to account for it," says Lewis. "When you hit the big play, you know it's over, and they're striking up the fight song. Those are the things that are important as an offense. Otherwise, you don't put any fear in the defense."

The active players with the most receptions of 40-plus yards :

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

RECEPTIONS OF 40 YARDS

Randy Moss

Vikings, Raiders, Patriots

76

Terrell Owens

49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills, Bengals

63

Joey Galloway

Seahawks, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Patriots, Redskins

51

Chad Ochocinco

Bengals

39

Santana Moss

Jets, Redskins

38

Miami wide receiver BRANDON MARSHALL was an attractive addition to the Dolphins offense this offseason. Marshall's big play prowess in the passing game is a focus for defenses and makes things easier for the Miami ground game.

"If you have a receiver who can get down the field and make plays then it may force a team to play with a cornerback and a safety over the top," says Marshall. "If that happens, it now will take two guys in the secondary to play one receiver. That will open up the rest of the field to the other wideouts and the tight end, and it also benefits the running game since that's one less person the running backs have to deal with."

Pittsburgh's MIKE WALLACE is an emerging downfield target for the Steelers. The second-year wide receiver is tied for second in the NFL with four receptions of 40-plus yards in 2010 and is averaging 25.1 yards per catch this season.

"I think the success of big plays in the passing game gets the defense out of the box," says Wallace. "The defense has to be honest. They can't come down and crowd the box with a lot of people to protect the run because they have to respect the deep ball."

The players with the most receptions of 40-plus yards this season :

PLAYER

TEAM

RECEPTIONS OF 40 YARDS

Brandon Lloyd

Broncos

5

DeSean Jackson

Eagles

4

Mike Wallace

Steelers

4

Malcom Floyd

Chargers

3

Jeremy Maclin

Eagles

3

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