The Ravens' 36-year-old playmaker, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., has carried the Ravens offense the past two weeks and quarterback Joe Flacco wants to ease his load.
Yes, Smith has been a monster with 349 receiving yards (third-most in the NFL) and two touchdowns, but Flacco wants to give his other weapons a chance.
Flacco has targeted Smith 40 times in three games. The next closest wide receivers in targets (Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown) have each had 11 passes come their way. Running back Justin Forsett has 18 targets and tight end Crockett Gillmore has 13.
On Sunday, Smith recorded 13 catches on 17 targets for 186 yards and two scores. Nobody else had even half as many targets and Aiken had just one.
"We can [make plays], we've just got to give them the ball and give them the opportunities to do it," Flacco said.
"We need to get some other guys some similar amount of opportunities and see what they can do and get their confidence going and make them believe that they can make those plays down the stretch because they can."
Of course, Flacco is the one throwing the ball to Smith. So it begs the question of why he just doesn't take it upon himself to find his other targets. When asked whether he was specifically looking for Smith on Sunday, Flacco said, "I'm going out there and running the plays."
"You don't do anything extra to try to get him the ball as a quarterback," Flacco said. "How the plays are being called, maybe you do some things, but I think he's always put in a position to have a good amount of catches."
The level at which Smith is playing has also* *certainly impacted how many passes have come his way.
The Ravens have used some interesting methods to get him open, including lining him up in the slot and off the ball, so he can't be pressed, and even once setting him into motion and having him loop behind the line of scrimmage before catching a pass.
"The issue is, when we have Steve, you can't not find ways to get him the ball," Flacco said. "A lot of the plays in our game plan, you say 'OK, let's make them for Steve because he's really good."
Smith was asked whether there was a point in which he tells his teammates to hop on for the ride.
"No, there's a point in the game where I probably said a few words that I don't want my kids to know I said, but I just go out there and make plays and do my best," he said. "I think you can always get better. There were a few plays that I'd like to have back."
Smith and Flacco had yet another chance to win a game on the final drive Sunday. They had just more than two minutes remaining, needing to go 80 yards for a touchdown and a victory against Cincinnati's defense.
Flacco targeted Smith once on second-and-3, but threw behind him and Smith wasn't able to make the catch. On third down, Flacco had Smith again underneath, but threw at his feet. The two connected to move the chains on fourth-and-3, but the play was negated by a facemask penalty on guard Kelechi Osemele. The drive ended on the next play.
"He was wide open," Flacco said of the third-down play. "I wish I would have been able to do it, and I should have been able to hit him anyway. I should have just hit him. I was trying to lead him out in front, and I didn't get a good ball."
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