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Dennis Pitta Is American Express

Posted Jan 28, 2013

Tight end Dennis Pitta had a breakout third season. But what changed?

It was just a 5-yard gain, and Dennis Pitta paid the price for it.

Pitta went over the middle and was, as he put it, “obliterated” by Patriots inside linebacker Jerod Mayo in last Sunday’s AFC championship.

But Pitta hung on.

He gathered himself as he went back to the huddle, where quarterback Joe Flacco was waiting to talk to the tight end.

“As I’m walking by, he goes, ‘Sorry, man, I didn’t mean to throw you right into it,’” Pitta said.

Pitta told Flacco it was okay, and that was the end of it. On the very next play, Pitta shook off Patriots safety Steve Gregory for a 5-yard touchdown to give the Ravens a lead they would never surrender.

That’s Pitta. Reliable. Consistent.

That’s why he earned the nickname American Express (he’s everywhere you want him to be) from outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. It’s why he had a breakout third season and is in position to be an impact player in Super Bowl XLVII.

“I don’t know how he’s improved,” Flacco said. “He’s just a good player.”

It isn’t that Pitta hasn’t honed his game. But Flacco and Pitta both feel the tight end has been pretty much the same guy he was in college, when he first entered the league, and [add] in his first couple seasons.

His emergence was just a matter of opportunity, Pitta says.

The Brigham Young University product has had to prove himself along the way. He was a college walk-on, then recorded a school-record 221 career receptions. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2010– one round after the Ravens took tight end Ed Dickson – but has overtaken him in the passing game.

Pitta caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns this season, tying Todd Heap’s franchise mark for most touchdowns by a tight end in a single season.

He has 10 receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns in the playoffs, including five grabs for 55 yards in the AFC championship.

“I’m someone Joe can rely on to get open and catch the football and be where you’re supposed to be,” Pitta said. “That’s really what it comes down to.”

Pitta caught just one pass for one yard as a rookie. He had 40 receptions for 405 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore. His numbers jumped again across the board this year.

“I think they’ve seen he can play so they make him a bigger part of the offense,” Flacco said. “He’s produced when he’s gotten the chance.”

Pitta has a pair of the softest hands on the team. He’s physical, 6-foot-4, 245 pounds and can do damage after the catch. Where Pitta has probably made the most strides as a receiver is continuing to perfect his route-running.

"I call him 'Big Smooth,’” wide receiver Jacoby Jones said. “He runs routes like a receiver.”

Big Smooth. American Express. Either way, Pitta is starting to become a household name.

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