When Michael Crabtree went back to the lab, he apparently found a solution.
Crabtree caught three passes for 52 yards, including the first touchdown of the game, during the Ravens' opening drive, helping propel Baltimore to an early 7-0 lead over the Tennessee Titans.
He finished with six catches for a team-high 93 yards, helping the Ravens to their 21-0 win.
"To me, he's a superstar," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a dominant football player, and we know that. We want to feed him."
It was an impressive response by Crabtree, the veteran wide receiver who said he would go "back to the lab" after dropping three passes the previous week against the Cleveland Browns, including a potential game-winner. The Ravens eventually lost, 12-9, in overtime, leaving Crabtree dejected and feeling as if he had let down his teammates.
Crabtree was seen catching extra passes after Wednesday's practice, and the Ravens said all week that they were confident he would solve his issues. Quarterback Joe Flacco and Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg both said they wouldn't hesitate to go back to Crabtree, and they specifically targeted him on the first play – a 21-yard completion.
"Trust, that's what you need in football," Crabtree said. "Quarterback-receiver trust. It's only going to get better. It's all about how much time you put in, how much work you put in. I'm new; this is my first year here. I'm just doing what I've got to do."
That first catch seemed to relax Crabtree and he went to work. A few plays later, Flacco found Crabtree again, good for 27 yards, as Crabtree made a nice move to get open in zone coverage and pick up a few more yards after making the catch.
Flacco said Crabtree was the primary target on the opening play – a shake-route that Crabtree felt good about. Harbaugh said Crabtree was calling for the ball on the sideline.
"I wasn't thinking about going to him because people maybe are kind of down on him," Flacco said. "Our relationship is what it is, and he knows how I feel about him. Mike's very prideful guy, takes a lot of pride in what he does. Mike's a very crafty guy. He does a great job setting guys up."
Crabtree capped the drive with his 4-yard touchdown catch, and it wasn't easy. On third-and-goal, Crabtree ran a quick corner pattern and Flacco made a back-shoulder throw with velocity on it. Almost as soon as Crabtree turned to look for the ball, it was coming toward him. But Crabtree snatched the ball in midair despite the wet conditions, tumbled to the ground, then threw the ball toward the sky in celebration.
He later made a spectacular toe-dragging 20-yard catch on third-and-10 to move the chains that was upheld upon review. The Titans couldn't believe he got his toes down.
"Just getting back to being me," Crabtree said, who also had a smile painted on his face with eye black underneath his left eye. "Enjoy life, smile every day. That's what I'm doing."