When Joe Flacco hit Torrey Smith with a 48-yard bomb down the left sideline early in the third quarter on Sunday, it awakened an offense that had slumbered through the first half for the second week in a row.
It was also one of the few big plays the Ravens have made in the passing game this season. It was the Ravens longest pass play of the season, and according to Pro Football Focus, one of just three completed passes of 20 yards or more this season. Last year, the Ravens had 35 such pass plays.
"We’ve taken our shots downfield," coach John Harbaugh said on Wednesday. "We’ve come up with the ball at times, and other times we haven’t. So, we need to make those plays.”
Everyone knows that Flacco has one of the strongest arms in the league. Ask Denver safety Rahim Moore, who watched Flacco's throw in the playoffs last year sail 50 yards and over his head, right into the arms of Jacoby Jones for the game-tying touchdown.
Jones represents one of the Ravens' top deep threats, but he remains sidelined with a knee injury.
At his weekly news conference on Wednesday, Flacco said that Jones' absence has "definitely affected" the vertical passing game.
Rookie Marlon Brown has replaced Jones, but he has had trouble gaining separation down the field. According to Pro Football Focus, Flacco is 0-for-4 when throwing deep to Brown.
"He’s got similar abilities (to Jones) in terms of speed, and he’s a really good wide receiver," Flacco said of Brown. "It’s just a matter of being a little bit more successful in some of the other things we’re doing so that other areas can open up.”
For now, Smith appears to be the Ravens' only proven deep threat, and he will always draw the opponent's top cornerback. That didn't keep Smith from slipping behind Johnathan Joseph for a 48-yard gain against the Texans, though.
The first few games have been a test of Flacco's patience, and players and coaches have praised how the veteran quarterback has not had a sense of panic, even though the Ravens offense has failed to score a touchdown in the first half for two straight games.
Flacco said he will remain patient, but will also continue to look long.
"It will be there. We can’t force anything," he said. "We still have to take chances. It’s not like they’re high percentage all the time. They’re either going to be completed, and it’s going to be a big play, and that’s the risk you take. If not, you’re sitting there at second-and-10 or whatever it may be. I think, overall, we just have to click a little bit more on everything we’re doing."