If Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was looking for a performance that would silence the criticism of his postgame social media tour de force from a week ago in Kansas City, he did not find it in Foxborough on Sunday.
This is not to say that Brown played a bad game. He finished with a team-high seven catches for 77 yards after just a few short-yardage catches in the first half. He was working against one of the league's brightest corners in Malcolm Butler, and was playing in a clearly rattled offense that had just lost Le'Veon Bell to an unexpected injury.
According to Pro Football Focus, Brown was targeted four times when running routes against Butler. He got two of those balls for 24 yards. Butler broke up one of the passes. Brown was targeted just nine times on the night.
Of course, knowing the football landscape we currently operate in, some will inevitably draw a crooked line between Brown's lack of explosive plays and his incident last week. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Brown has a lucrative, six-figure deal with Facebook. Brown apologized to fans, coaches and teammates for posting streaming video from the locker room on Facebook Live after the win over the Chiefs. However, as Rapoport reported, the team is expected to fine him for the incident.
Such is life for one of the game's most talented players. Just ask Odell Beckham if an off-day boat trip had anything to do with an uncharacteristic drop in Green Bay in the wild-card round.
Overall, it was an incredible weekend for the NFL's top wideouts. Julio Jones posted nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Patriots wideout Chris Hogan and teammate Julian Edelmancombined for 298 yards and three touchdowns -- a postseason record for tandems.
Brown's case, however, was quite different. Unlike Jones, who told NFL GameDay Prime on Sunday that he was stunningly left in single coverage for a portion of his game against the Packers, Brown seemed to be weaving through a complex wave of Patriots defenders on nearly every attempt in his direction.
Ben Roethlisberger had at least five significant receiver drops Sunday, which made it almost impossible to establish a second threat with Bell sidelined.
Brown -- and Pittsburgh -- ran into the perfect storm Sunday night -- a mix of injuries, missed opportunities and their own porous soft-zone defense that allowed Tom Brady to play ahead. While it might seem easy or convenient to place the blame on one person, Brown was not alone by any means.