Opposing defenses finally have caught on to Nate Washington. Consequently, his catches have decreased noticeably through the first part of this season.
“We target him a lot,” offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said last week. “His catches aren’t as high as they were a year ago, and I think some of that is if you’re coaching defense you’re saying, ‘Hey, we have to shut him down.’”
The Buffalo Bills failed to do so Sunday, particularly when it mattered most. Washington had a team-high six receptions, the last of which was the game-winning 15-yard touchdown reception with 1:03 to play in the Titans’ 35-34 victory.
The six receptions were a season-high and the touchdown was his first in four weeks, which matched his longest drought in a year.
Washington was 28 years old and in his seventh NFL season last fall when he took a major step forward in his career. His 74 catches and 1,023 yards easily were career-highs and his seven touchdown receptions were one more than his previous best.
Through the first six weeks of this season he had just 17 receptions, which put him on pace for 45, and he did not have more than four in a contest. Four times in the first six games of 2011 he caught five passes or more.
The loss of big numbers has not precluded him from making the big play, though. His 19.5 yards-per-catch average was best in the league among players with more than 15 receptions, prior to Sunday’s game at Buffalo.
He averaged just over seven yards per reception against the Bills, but his touchdown on a fourth-and-9, certainly qualified as a big play and likely did little to make defenses turn their attention elsewhere.
“I’m seeing some different types of coverages sometimes,” Washington said. “I’m just having to make sure I’m being patient. It’s a little different role for me this year than it was last year. … I’m just making sure that I’m persistent and determined with what I’m doing.”