Jeremy Maclin scored the Ravens' first touchdown of the year – a beautiful slant that he took 48 yards to the house in Cincinnati.
It was exactly the kind of play Baltimore envisioned when it signed the veteran wide receiver to a two-year deal this offseason. He's fast, a great route-runner, reliable and works the middle of the field.
But things haven't gone exactly as planned for Maclin this season, especially in recent weeks and particularly on Sunday night in Pittsburgh.
Maclin was targeted a team-high 11 times against the Steelers. He caught three passes for 27 yards and didn't make a couple key plays on the Ravens' final drive in an effort to put kicker Justin Tucker in range for a game-winning field goal.
"For whatever reason, it just hasn't … especially last game, it just didn't click," Maclin said
"But I'm not going to beat myself up about it. That's what preparation is for all throughout the week. We'll continue to go out there and get on the same page."
Maclin dropped what would have been an 18-yard catch on first down when he was hit hard in the midsection. The play was negated anyway because of an illegal motion penalty.
Three plays later, Maclin had a shot to make a 27-yard catch along the right sideline, but stepped out of bounds while trying to make* *the toe-tapping grab. Had he stayed in bounds, it would have set Tucker up for a 51-yard attempt.
"It is what it is, man," Maclin said. "At this point, the one thing you worry about is just trying to help your team win games. I had some opportunities to make plays late in that game and I just came up short."
There have definitely been good moments and games for Maclin.
In Week 9 at Tennessee, he looked to have the best connection with quarterback Joe Flacco and caught eight passes for 98 yards. He helped open the intermediate passing attack. One week earlier, Maclin and Flacco hooked up on perhaps the prettiest pass play of the season, a 34-yard touchdown against the Miami Dolphins to kick off a 40-0 rout
But during the last three games, Maclin has been targeted 24 times and made eight catches for 74 yards.
On the season, he leads the Ravens in targets (71), is third in catches (39) and second in yards (418) behind Mike Wallace (559). Maclin is tied with Wallace and tight end Benjamin Watson with three receiving touchdowns
Maclin has fought multiple injuries this season. He had a hand injury before the Ravens' Week 5 game in Oakland. He then missed two games because of a shoulder injury, which lingered for several weeks. He came off the injury report after the bye, but resurfaced with a back problem last week.
The injuries often left Maclin out of practice or limited. Combine that with his missed practice time with Flacco when the quarterback was sidelined throughout training camp by a sore back, and the two haven't had many chances to build consistency
But Flacco said fans should look at each individual misconnection before making sweeping judgements about Maclin or their chemistry.
"There are definitely some things we can work on, but I wouldn't overreact to it," he said
The Ravens offense has turned it on in back-to-back games, and since Week 8, only one team (Philadelphia Eagles) has averaged more points per game than the Ravens' 31.3.
Now if Maclin, who has seen his role increase with Breshad Perriman inactive, can get his groove back, the Ravens offense can take even another step forward.
"We're continuing to produce, but at the same time, you could ask any guy on offense in here and we would have liked to finish that game last week," Maclin said.