Perhaps the most consistent storyline in the media entering Sunday's matchup with the Browns was that the Ravens needed wide receivers Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown to step up their play in Steve Smith Sr.'s absence.
The results were mixed in their first outing without the veteran receiver.
Aiken finished the game with four catches for 78 yards, but had just 5 receiving yards after the first quarter. Brown had only one catch for no yards.
"There's a lot of things that didn't happen today, you can't just put it on one thing," Brown said. "Things just didn't go our way today."
The Ravens opened the game looking like they would keep the receivers heavily involved in the offense even without Smith. On Baltimore's second offensive possession, Aiken caught passes of 9 and 16 yards to help set up a touchdown. He hauled in a 48-yard catch on the next series to set up another touchdown to give the Ravens a 14-3 lead.
But that was basically where Aiken's production ended.
He caught another pass for 5 yards in the second quarter. Flacco targeted him twice in the second half.
"They didn't do anything different," Aiken said about Cleveland's defense in the second half. "We ran the ball a little more, and tried to establish the running game, that was working for us. We just couldn't make that one more play that we needed."
The Ravens shifted to a run-heavy offense after halftime, and had success with that approach. Baltimore ran for 147 yards in the second half, and the offense found its stride operating through running back Justin Forsett.
Flacco attempted just 15 passes in the second half, and didn't complete a pass to a receiver.
"Down the stretch there, I had to throw the ball away a lot, but I thought our receivers made some big plays and did a great job just staying patient and doing what they were supposed to do," Flacco said. "There in the second half, our run game started to come alive."
The outing may have looked much different for the receiving corps, particularly Aiken, if he and Flacco had connected on a couple of opportunities. Flacco overthrew him on a deep ball down the sidelines on third-and-1 when Aiken had separation on the receiver.
Aiken also had some room on the final play of regulation, but Flacco had to heave the pass in his direction because he had pressure in his face.
"We definitely had opportunities out there today," Aiken said. "We had an opportunity in the first half to put it away, and then we had another time to score down in the red zone before we kicked the field goal to tie it. We had our chances, we just didn't finish."
The Ravens will rely on Aiken as the top target for as long as Smith is sidelined with the microfractures in his back. Head Coach John Harbaugh has described Smith's injury as "week-to-week."
Until he returns, the Ravens need their young targets to fill his void.
"That was a tough one, my spirits aren't too high right now," Aiken said. "Any time you're 1-4 it's tough, we just have to watch the film and get better. At the end of the day, we just didn't get the job done."