The matchup against the Washington Redskins Saturday night may have just been the preseason, but somebody forgot to tell wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.
The veteran wideout looked more like a rookie trying to earn his spot rather than of a 14-year veteran with a standout resume. Smith put his intensity on display for his best performance of the preseason in the Ravens' 23-17 victory over Washington.
"That's kind of vintage Steve Smith," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It was great to see that."
Smith was arguably the best player on the field.
He caught a game-high six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown grab was a 24-yard diving catch in the back of the end zone near the end of the first half, which gave the Ravens a lead they would build on for the victory.
"I think this was a big step with him," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "There's a reason he's been in the league as long as he has and it's because he goes out there and fights every day."
Smith was a popular target for Flacco throughout the first half. Flacco targeted the veteran receiver seven times, and two of his receptions went for first downs.
Smith was able to find soft spots in the defense to move the chains, and then he was relentless once he got the ball in his hands. He fought through tackles and wouldn't go down easily. On one occasion, Washington defenders thought they had him wrapped up on the sidelines, but he broke free of the tackle and then snuck up the sidelines for a 30-yard gain.
"Steve is a great player and I think you saw a little bit of everything tonight," Flacco said. "He catches the ball great. When he gets to it, he catches. He runs with the ball well because he's strong, he's powerful, he's quick, he's fast. He can break tackles. We're getting on the same page every day."
Smith has been praised by teammates and coaches since signing with the Ravens this offseason, and he shined throughout training camp. But he had been quiet in his limited action during the first two weeks of the preseason, and it was important for him to come away with a standout showing in the final tune-up for starters before Week 1.
"You come here in free agency, and everybody has a question: 'Will he be able to play? What kind of plays can he make?" Smith said after the game.
"That kind of just shows that I can still play and what kind of play that I'm going to have. People are always going to say, I don't care who it is, they're going to say 'OK, it's great what he did over here, but he's not there any more, what's he going to bring to the table? So that's what I want to do is show what I bring to the table."
Smith demonstrated against Washington that he still has plenty of stamina left for a big season. Saturday was the final game action that Smith, Flacco and the first-team offense will see before the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Ravens hope the performance was a sign of things to come in the next few months.
"We're getting on the same page," Flacco said. "Every day we're getting better and better."