Torrey Smith delivers two TD catches for Ravens

  • Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium.
Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith reacts after scoring a touchdown… (Kim Klement / USA Today Sports )
October 12, 2014|Aaron Wilson | The Baltimore Sun

TAMPA, FLA. -- Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith knelt in the end zone Sunday afternoon, pausing for a moment to pray after catching a slant pass from Joe Flacco in stride for a touchdown.

The former Maryland standout was in a thankful mood during a resurgent game after arguably the roughest stretch of his career. One week after his dropped pass ended a late comeback attempt against the Indianapolis Colts, Smith was jubilant during the Ravens' 48-17 blowout victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

Smith twice cut sharply to his left on slant patterns to accelerate away from Buccaneers nickel back Leonard Johnson for touchdown catches. Behind Smith's pair of scores from 15 yards and 9 yards to open the game in the first quarter, the Ravens built an early 14-0 lead that they wouldn't surrender.

"I expect to play that way every week, it just doesn't happen," Smith said. "It's important to build some positive momentum for myself to get going for our team because the better I play, the better situations our team can be put in. I understand that I have a major role on this team, which I love and embrace. It's important for me to play at a high level all the time."

For whatever reason, whether he's pressing in the final year of his rookie contract or being targeted less since five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith arrived, Torrey Smith entered Sunday with just 11 receptions for 176 yards and one touchdown on 29 targets. Although he had drawn an NFL-high six pass interference penalties, Smith was on pace to finish the season with a career-low 35 catches for 563 yards and three touchdowns.

Despite Smith's struggles, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he kept believing the fourth-year pro would eventually snap out of it and regain his form from last season, when he caught a career-high 65 passes for 1,128 yards and four touchdowns. The Ravens made it a special point to get Smith involved early to try to boost his confidence and he caught four passes for 51 yards on five targets.

"It meant a lot in terms of confidence," Harbaugh said. "I just think that the understanding of perseverance pays off. You can't get down on yourself. You can't mope around. You've got to go for it. You just have to find a way to turn it around and come out on the other end. Eventually, it's going to happen if you keep your faith. He's too good a player not to be making plays like that. We knew it was just a matter of time."

This game was reminiscent in some ways of how Smith silenced critics during his rookie year after being labeled as a bust despite being drafted by the Ravens in the second round in 2011 following his junior year in College Park. Against the St. Louis Rams in the third game of his NFL career, Smith piled up 152 yards and three touchdowns.

Smith has insisted for weeks that he would get back on track and was adamant that he wasn't distracted by his contract status. Sources have said the Ravens and Smith haven't made progress in negotiations and no long-term deal is imminent.

Meanwhile, Smith rebutted comments made by CBS broadcasters Solomon Wilcots and Spero Dedes during the game. They said Harbaugh told them before the game that he'd gotten on Smith in an effort to improve his performance.

"He didn't say anything to me that he doesn't normally say," Smith said. "He definitely didn't say it in that manner. It was always, 'This is your week, keep working, keep pressing forward.' Coach Harbaugh is a man of strong faith, and I'm definitely growing and working in that aspect as well. So, I think everything happens for a reason. Everything's been a test for me, and I'm trying to respond the best way I can."

With Torrey Smith upgrading his play, it opened up opportunities for other players.

On Sunday, Steve Smith caught five passes for 110 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown from Flacco, and wide receivers Michael Campanaro (River Hill) and Kamar Aiken caught their first NFL touchdowns.

This kind of performance by Torrey Smith could help the evolution of the Ravens' offense, which has been overhauled by new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

"It makes a huge difference because teams are going to decide who they take away," Steve Smith said. "When they do that, we have to adapt our offense and make adjustments. Other guys have to make plays as well. If they decide to take someone away, someone else has to make them pay."

This time, it was Torrey Smith who accomplished that task.

"That's just how it goes sometimes, and I just had to make the plays when we needed it," Torrey Smith said. "It was important for us to start fast."

awilson@baltsun.com

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