Joe Flacco finally has the group of targets he envisioned at the start of the year.
Tight end Dennis Pitta is back. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones is full strength. Rookie Marlon Brown has proven to be a diamond in the rough and Torrey Smith has continued to blossom into a No. 1 target.
With three games left in the regular season, Flacco has his full arsenal at his disposal and the Ravens are counting on the passing offense to put together a strong performance down the stretch.
"It's definitely the corps that we kind of pictured," Flacco said. "Now we've just got to make it work."
The Ravens have been a carousel at wide receiver this year because of injuries and offseason moves. Jones, Brown and Tandon Doss have all had opportunities to start opposite of Smith, and losing Pitta to a hip injury in training camp disrupted the entire passing game.
Pitta was expected to help replace departed receiver Anquan Boldin as a chain mover and sure-handed target over the middle, and having him go down forced the Ravens to turn to unproven targets.
"Obviously, you lose Dennis at the very beginning of training camp and it's not something that you really account for," Flacco said. "We adjusted and we worked through it, and anytime you have somebody like that go down it's going to affect you in some way, and I think we're now starting to get everybody healthy."
Pitta showed in his return against the Vikings that can he provide an immediate boost to the passing game, catching six passes for 48 yards and a touchdown. His return will draw more attention from opposing defenses, and potentially free up Smith, Jones or Brown to make big plays down the field.
"I hope it makes us at our best," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I hope it makes us better."
Even before Pitta returned, the passing game had shown recent progress. The Ravens were able to move the ball through the air against the Jets and Steelers – Flacco averaged 262 passing yards in those games – and the offense got points on six of its seven full possessions against the Steelers.
Flacco had some miscues in the snow on Sunday, but he was at his best in the fourth quarter, completing 11-of-17 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. He also led two comeback touchdown drives in the final frame.
The improved performances in recent weeks and the scoring outburst against Minnesota has Flacco confident that the passing game is on the verge of a breakout performance.
"I feel like we're close, and not just because of two minutes in a football game," Flacco said. "The last handful of weeks, we've really been starting to break through and get to the point where we're giving ourselves opportunities to put points on the board. That's all that you can ask for is to get down into the zone where you're giving yourself opportunities. As long as you give yourself a lot of opportunities, you're going to put some points on the board."
Scoring touchdowns in the red zone had been a problem for the offense earlier in the season, but the group came away with touchdowns on all three of its red-zone trips against the Vikings. Having Pitta back as a red-zone target certainly* *helps, and Flacco expects to continue that trend against a high-powered Detroit Lions offense this week.
"I think we're starting to break through to the point where we're going to start scoring touchdowns and start capitalizing on a little bit more of those opportunities than we have been," Flacco said.