They no longer have the power of the fu manchu, but Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and tight end Dennis Pitta are showing more of a connection than ever before.
Judging by the Ravens' first two games, Pitta has become Flacco's favorite target.
Pitta leads all Ravens receivers in receptions (13) and targets (24). Flacco has attempted 71 passes this year. More than a third have been directed to Pitta.
On Wednesday, Flacco said he didn't know what to attribute the high number of targets to.
"I think it's just a matter of me going through progressions and him maybe being the guy we're trying to target, or just going through and by the time I get to his point in the progression he's open," Flacco said.
Pitta was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, one round behind fellow tight end Ed Dickson. Dickson became the starter last year and finished with more receptions, yards and touchdowns than Pitta.
But Flacco and Pitta, who have joked about their bromance, started to show more of a connection towards the end of last season.
Pitta was relied upon as a wide receiver in Week 17 in Cincinnati and had a team-high six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Pitta was targeted eight times in the AFC championship game versus New England, tied for the most on the team with wide receiver Anquan Boldin. He was the target on a critical third-and-1 pass on Baltimore's final drive that went incomplete.
Despite a broken hand that forced him out of the entire preseason, Pitta and Flacco have picked up where they left off.
They connected for a 10-yard touchdown in Week 1 when Flacco read a blitz and lofted a jump ball to Pitta. Pitta had 15 targets Sunday against the Eagles (eight catches for 65 yards). That's five more targets than running back Ray Rice and 10 more than the top receiver, Torrey Smith.
"I think we laid a foundation at the end of last year that carries into the offseason and everything you do," Pitta said. "Joe and I kind of know what each other are thinking. We're on the same page most of the time and that certainly helps."
While a strong familiarity is good, there's also the question of whether Pitta is targeted too much.
Flacco was picked off trying to force a third-down pass to Pitta in triple coverage Sunday in Philadelphia. He went to him on a critical third-and-1 situation at the end of the game, but the pass zipped over Pitta's head before he could get his hands up.
Despite Pitta's excellent hands, only 54 percent of passes thrown his way have been completed so far this season. Boldin, for example, has had nine passes his way and seven have been completed.
Defensive coordinators are taking notice of the Flacco-Pitta duo.
"I definitely think [Pitta's] someone that we'll definitely have to know where he is out on the field," Patriots Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia said. "He fits in well with what they try to do and certainly they had a productive game there, so obviously he'll be someone they like to target."
Pitta said he anticipates seeing more coverage looks from opposing defenses. The next challenge for him will be to produce despite more attention.
"That's how football goes," Pitta said. "If you're somebody that's getting the ball and making plays then they're going to work to try to limit that. That makes you have to elevate your game more."