Joe Flacco Adapts To New Receiving Corps After Injuries


The receiving corps Joe Flacco had on the field at the end of Thursday night's game looked nothing like what the Ravens envisioned coming into the season.

Steve Smith Sr. and Michael Campanaro both left Thursday's game with injuries. Tight end Crockett Gillmore didn't suit up because of a calf problem. Breshad Perriman missed his fifth straight game.

Needing an overtime drive to beat Pittsburgh, the Ravens offense featured Kamar Aiken, Marlon Brown and Darren Waller at receiver. Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle shared reps at tight end. The Ravens had no other healthy receivers or tight ends.

The only time Flacco thought he might have stepped into the huddle with that group around him was during a veteran off day in training camp.

"It hasn't been much," Flacco said. "But it's not my job to look to see who we have out there. It's my job to see whoever that guy is, is open, and give him a chance to make the catch."

Flacco did just that.

He hit Waller for a 17-yard gain on Baltimore's last drive of the fourth quarter, which was the first catch of the rookie's career. Flacco then connected with Aiken on a 20-yard strike down the sidelines to set up a game-tying field goal by Justin Tucker. Aiken caught another critical pass on the game's final drive to set up the game-winning field goal (not to mention his 15-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter).

"I'm assuming everybody is ready to go and fired up to be in there because this is an opportunity of a lifetime to play in this football league. We're all grown men here," Flacco said. "They've been in similar situations and I think they kind of relish the opportunity to get out there and do it."

The young targets didn't seem intimidated by the primetime atmosphere at Heinz Field, and Flacco didn't put any added pressure on them in the huddle.

"They weren't lying when they said he's the coolest out there, and calm," Waller said. "He's just calm in there, explaining what he's going to do. That kind of gives everybody else confidence that he's not panicking, he's got everything under control. It's like, 'OK, let's just go out there and handle business."

Relying on the young targets may not be a one-time experience for Baltimore given the injuries from Thursday night. Campanaro was placed on injured reserve Saturday morning, and Smith said his back injury  made it "probably the first time in my career I feel like I'm 36."

Reports surfaced Saturday that Smith had four broken bones in his back or his ribs, and a statement from the team said the receiver is considered week-to-week and won't require surgery.

Smith has some extra time to recover before Baltimore plays another game, and the Ravens traded a conditional draft pick to the St. Louis Rams for wide receiver Chris Givens. The newly acquired receiver will need to quickly get on the same page with Flacco. With the unit being decimated by injuries, it wouldn't be surprising to see Givens and several backups getting plenty of snaps.

"Just keep your composure, and don't allow there to be a drop-off with guys out," Waller said. "You have to keep that playmaking ability going. That was just something that I feel like I owe to the other receivers and the team as well. I want to step in there and make plays."

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