Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh told the media last week he wanted to see more production from his tight ends.
Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson took it as a challenge, as they had been quiet on offense in recent weeks.
The two tight ends answered the call on Sunday, as they both came up with big plays in the 55-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
"When somebody calls you out, it's how you respond to it," Dickson said. "We didn't let it get to our head and say, 'Why is he picking on us like that?' We worked hard and wanted to show it on the field."
Pitta finished with five catches for a team-leading 67 yards and a touchdown. Dickson had two catches for 59 yards, which both came on third downs and set up touchdowns.
"Dennis Pitta had a monster day, and I had a pretty good day myself," Dickson said.
Pitta's touchdown came midway through the second quarter, which gave the Ravens a 17-3 lead. The Ravens have backed off the no-huddle offense in recent weeks, but they hurried to the line on that play and Pitta was open over the middle of the field for the score.
"It was a quick, up-tempo play, and we got to the line and executed it well and got the score," Pitta said.
Despite Harbaugh's challenge, Pitta and Dickson both said they didn't have a larger role in the game plan this week to get them more involved. Instead, their production was viewed more as a result of the defense giving them openings that they were able to exploit.
"Every week we are part of the game plan, but you really can't predict how much you are going to be involved, because that is dictated by the defensive looks," Pitta said. "We were able to take advantage of some of the things we saw on film, and it ended up being a good day for us."
Quarterback Joe Flacco noticed that the Raiders defense keyed in on wide receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, with the safeties sometimes focusing their coverage on the edge of the field. That opened up the middle and gave the tight ends room to work.
"They were trying to prevent those guys from really getting the ball and being a big factor in the game, and because of that, it left the middle of the field open a little bit," Flacco said.
Pitta's impressive day was almost cut short in the second quarter, when he took a big hit to the head. Pitta laid out for a pass and was on the receiving end of a helmet-to-helmet hit by Raiders linebacker Philip Wheeler, who was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct call.
The penalty gave the Ravens a first down and set up a touchdown, but Pitta went to the locker room for concussion tests. He looked woozy on the field after the play, but passed the concussion tests and was able to return to the game.
The injury is not considered serious.
Sunday's performance by the tight ends was the kind of game the Ravens expected out of the duo coming into the season. Pitta has been one of Flacco's top targets this year, but Dickson has struggled to get highly involved in the passing game.
A focus recently for Dickson has been building more of a rapport with Flacco. Dickson missed the entire preseason because of a shoulder injury, which cut into practice time during training camp. General Manager Ozzie Newsome recently had a conversation with Dickson and told him that chemistry comes with time, and that the preseason injury made it even more difficult.
"Ozzie just shined the light on me," Dickson said. "He said, 'You have to gain that [chemistry] back with Joe,' and that made 100 percent sense."
To make up for the lost time, Dickson has been working more with Flacco and the two stayed on the field for several minutes after Friday's practice to run more routes. One of the routes they practiced ended up going for a 40-yard gain, and Dickson said that the key over the second half of the season is to continue building on Sunday's effort.
"Me and Joe are two young guys, and Dennis is a young guy, and we have to build our chemistry from the ground up," Dickson said. "This is something to build on."