Brandon Stokley is more than a one-catch wonder this time around.
While his first catch of the season ended the Ravens' infamous scoring drought a month ago, it also started his comeback route into the team's offense. Stokley didn't drop his opportunity to shed a disappointing rookie season and lackluster preseason, both of which produced only one catch.
He has gone from a last resort in the first half of the season to a reliable third receiver for the Ravens. This past month, he caught seven passes for 129 yards while converting third downs at an impressive rate.
Still, Stokley had his doubts if he would ever get a chance to establish himself this season after being inactive for eight of the first nine games.
"There for a minute, it was real tough to imagine breaking out of there," Stokley said. "I always kept my head up and knew what could happen in NFL. I knew injuries could happen and knew I could get my chance. And I wanted to be ready if I got my chance."
The chance came by way of rookie Travis Taylor's breaking his clavicle in Week 9. After Stokley moved up to the fourth receiver, he didn't stop there and climbed past Jermaine Lewis as the third receiver a week later.
Stokley, a second-year receiver out of Southwestern Louisiana, is a changeup in the Ravens' passing attack.
He doesn't have the blazing speed of Lewis or Patrick Johnson. He doesn't have the experience of Shannon Sharpe or Qadry Ismail.
At 5 feet 11, 197 pounds, Stokley is a nifty receiver, with deceptive quickness off the ball and trusty hands. He has no qualms about going over the middle and rarely gives up on balls, diving for overthrown passes.
"Brandon has some unique abilities," said Ravens coach Brian Billick, who has had Stokley coming out of the backfield at times. "All he needs is a forum to present those abilities, and he's had that. You have to give him credit for stepping up after having been deactivated."
Stokley, though, made the transition look easier than it was.
A fourth-round pick in 1999, he made his only catch last season in the opener against the St. Louis Rams, a 28-yard touchdown reception. He dislocated his shoulder in his second game that season and finished the rest of the year on injured reserve.
He then pressed too much in training camp and dropped numerous balls. After a long stretch on the bench during the regular season, Stokley had to battle questioning himself.
"I've always prided myself in having a lot of confidence in myself," Stokley said. "But being inactive for a while kind of weighs on you a little bit."
That all changed with one catch against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 5. Stokley became the first Raven to cross the goal line in 21 quarters, scoring on a 14-yard reception in the right flat.
He has continued to pull the Ravens out of pinches since, converting third downs on six of his seven catches this season.
Three weeks ago in Tennessee, Stokley pulled down a wide, 15-yard pass along the right sideline on third-and-11 that kept alive the Ravens' second touchdown drive of the game. A game later against the Dallas Cowboys, he laid out for a 32-yard reception in the fourth quarter on another third down.
Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, Stokley played a major role in the Ravens' first touchdown drive by converting two third downs. He added another in the second quarter and finished with four receptions for 68 yards to lead the Ravens.
"It's fun going out there on third down and trying to make some plays to keep the drive going," Stokley said. "I like to go over the middle and make the tough catches and keep the chains going."
With Stokley's third-down run, the Ravens may be looking for him to help them out of holes in the future.
It's been a cinch so far for Stokley. That is, once he dug out of his own rut.
"He's really getting the confidence back in his hands," Billick said. "Early in training camp, he had some drops there that you didn't expect from Brandon given what you had seen the year before. But he has his confidence back."
NOTE: The Ravens have announced that they have sold out their Dec. 24 regular-season finale against the New York Jets. That means the Ravens have sold out every regular-season game at 3-year-old PSINet Stadium.
Next for Ravens, Opponent: San Diego Chargers
Site: PSINet Stadium
When: Dec. 10, 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch.13/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)