When a short pass to Dallas Clark bounced off the veteran tight end's hands Sunday afternoon, CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf said what many in M&T Bank Stadium were likely thinking.
"It's pretty apparent watching the first couple of games on tape and now this that the timing just isn't 100 percent there between Clark and Joe Flacco," he said.
That timing turned out to be better than first thought. On the very next play, Flacco hit Clark on another out route for a 21-yard gain to move the chains on third-and-9.
The two continued to show an improved connection throughout Sunday's win, giving hope that the Ravens' retooled passing attack is starting to turn a corner.
Clark finished with four catches for 46 yards on seven targets. Two of his grabs converted on third down and three picked up first downs. On the season, Clark has eight first-down catches, the second most on the team behind wide receiver Torrey Smith.
"It's coming," Clark said of his connection with Flacco. "It's definitely a battle, but I like where we're at."
Clark struggled with drops in Week 1 in Denver, including one on the goal line. He was targeted by Flacco just once the next week against Cleveland.
But Flacco went to Clark early and often against Houston. Clark was targeted by seven passes, the second most on the team behind Smith.
The four completions were mostly timing plays in which the 6-foot-3 Clark, who is an accomplished route runner, had a mismatch.
"We got into a rhythm," Flacco said. "There were a couple of times where I could have gone to [Brandon] Stokley or Torrey, but you know you have such a good matchup with Dallas that you have to stick with him, and he did a good job."
Head Coach John Harbaugh was pleased to see improvement in the timing and completing of tight throws. They're often plays in which Clark and Flacco are working on trying to expose a one-on-one matchup with a particular player like a linebacker.
Clark has to break off the route at just the right time and Flacco must put the ball in front of him just enough to avoid the linebacker from getting his hands on it.
"That's the kind of stuff that we have been working really hard to get to, not just with Dallas, but with all the guys," Harbaugh said.
Clark, Stokley and wide receiver Marlon Brown have all been looking to catch up with Flacco as new targets in the receiving game. And their growth together should continue over the course of the season.
"They've still only been here a couple of weeks," Flacco said, referring to Clark and Stokley.
"They have to get their feet under them to really get confident in our offense. They are two guys who are going to get better and better as the year goes on. … The fact that we've won a couple of football games in the process is huge."