The Ravens wide receivers are in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons this week after a rough outing against the Chicago Bears, but don't count Joe Flacco among the doubters.
Asked what he might say to his wideouts in the wake of a losing performance marked by crucial drops, the Ravens quarterback said, "The biggest thing for those guys is to continue to know that I have confidence in them."
During his weekly session with reporters Wednesday, Flacco said he would emphasize the point in private conversations with his wideouts as Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings nears.
"This is Saturday night, Friday night. I let them know, 'Listen, we're prepared. We're all prepared here. Every one of us has put the time in. Now it's time to go out there and let it fly,'" Flacco said.
His message? Even if you made mistakes last week, don't let those mistakes impact you going forward.
"Come game time, you can't be thinking about anything like that. You can't be batting an eye," Flacco said. "You're just going out there and continuing to let it fly."
With the Ravens' passing attack ranked No. 31 in the league through six games, the receivers have almost seemed invisible at times. Benjamin Watson, a tight end, leads the team with 24 receptions. Buck Allen, a running back, is second with 23 receptions.
The Ravens' top three receivers – Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman – are averaging just 5.8 catches and 70 yards per game. That's combined.
Against the Bears, Maclin didn't suit up because of a shoulder injury and Perriman's day ended when he suffered a concussion in the second quarter. Chicago's secondary focused on Wallace, who caught just three passes.
Given an opportunity, backups Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro and Chris Matthews combined to catch seven passes for 73 yards on 15 targets – modest numbers.
Most discouragingly, Moore and Campanaro both had important passes bounce off their hands, with Moore's drop resulting in a pick-six. On the play when he suffered a concussion, Perriman also dropped a catchable pass that turned into an interception.
Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh's frustration was evident when he spoke to reporters Monday.
"No question; we have to catch the ball better. There's no doubt about it. That's what you do when you're a receiver or a tight end or a back. Your job is to hold on to the football," Harbaugh said.
It won't be easy to make amends Sunday against the Vikings, who are ranked No. 5 in the league in total defense.
But Flacco offered a glimpse of what he might tell his receivers if a defensive-minded game breaks out.
"When you're not moving the ball that well, you've got to keep everybody's heads in the game and make sure they're continually focused on the moment and not on what has happened in the past six drives," Flacco said.
Regardless of what happens, he sounded confident that his receivers won't just submit to the circumstances.
"Those guys," Flacco said, "are going to continue to do everything they can in terms of letting it fly."