It has been a disastrous start for the Baltimore Ravens to say the least. There is little to cheer for when a team starts a season 0-3 for the first time in franchise history. The secondary was scorched once again, allowing Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green to run wild (again) en route to 227 yards and two touchdowns on 10 receptions.
There is one thing to be thrilled about – and honestly not much else – and that is the connection between Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. The 36-year-old was electric in the passing game trying to match Green’s production on Sunday.
Smith was unstoppable again Sunday and was not battling just Bengals defenders. The Ravens playmaker battled dehydration and stomach issues throughout the game, getting intravenous fluids on the sidelines during the third quarter. Despite the physical struggles, Smith finished with 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
This comes off last week’s performance in which he caught 10 balls for 150 yards against the Oakland Raiders. It is the first time in Smith’s established career that he has posted back-to-back games with double-digit receptions.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith picked off an Andy Dalton pass in the end zone on the Bengals opening drive of the second half and the Flacco-Smith connection came out firing on all cylinders. Flacco found Smith for 20 yards on a 3rd-and-5 play to keep the drive alive. A few plays later, they connected once again for a 12-yard pickup. Then came the play of the game for the Ravens as they faced a key fourth down play at midfield. Smith caught a pass short of the line of gain, broke a tackle to get the first down, and then broke a few more tackles before racing down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown. The Ravens offense finally showed some life.
The duo hooked up on numerous occasions on the team’s next offensive touchdown drive which was capped off by Smith’s 16-yard touchdown reception that gave the Ravens a 24-21 lead with 3:56 remaining. Smith caught passes for gains of 9 and 16 yards before scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
Ultimately, the Ravens would lose the contest on Green’s final touchdown grab, which Smith was not happy about postgame.
“It ultimately is about wins and losses. It’s not about stats,” Smith said.
“Losing is not frustrating – losing pisses me off to be honest. I don’t like losing,” he added later.
The 0-3 start has been demoralizing, but Flacco and Smith are in a groove. Through three games, Flacco has completed 82 of his 126 passing attempts for 863 yards. Smith has been the recipient of 25 catches on 40 targets for 349 yards. No other wide receiver has more than seven receptions, and the only other two players with 10 or more receptions is running back Justin Forsett (12) and Crockett Gillmore (10). To say that Flacco has found his favorite target is an understatement.
The Ravens receiving corps is not as talented as many thought entering training camp. There is no compliment to Smith with Breshad Perriman still sidelined. Smith slowed down as the season went on last season, and Smith is being used more this season than last. Baltimore needs Perriman to get back on the field to take some of the pressure off Flacco and Smith.
Flacco and Smith are one of the top QB-WR combinations in the league and that should continue to be the case this season. It is only a matter of time before the Ravens turn it around. They travel to Pittsburgh this week and get a bit of a blessing in disguise with Ben Roethlisberger’s injury. A win this week with 10 days off before hosting the Cleveland Browns in Week 5 could get the Ravens back in the hunt.
Smith will continue to make cornerbacks sick in the meantime.
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