ST. LOUIS—Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith heard it all week.
Flacco didn’t have confidence in his young wide receivers. Smith couldn’t get open against NFL cornerbacks.
The Baltimore Ravens’ passing game was doomed without injured Lee Evans.
Two offensive plays into their game Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, all three of those conclusions looked shaky.
Flacco hit Smith, a rookie from Maryland, for three first-quarter touchdowns; the aerial display highlighted the Ravens’ 37-7 rout of the Rams in front of 56,289 at Edward Jones Dome.
In improving to 2-1 ahead of next Sunday night’s showdown against the New York Jets, the Ravens, taking mostly to the air despite the Rams entering the game with the worst run defense in the NFL, wracked up a franchise-record 553 yards of total offense. The 406 yards they amassed in building a 27-0 first-half lead was a franchise record for any half.
Coming off one of his worst performances as a pro in a loss to the Tennessee Titans last week, Flacco went 27 for 48 for three touchdowns. He also completely destroyed the notion that there was a disconnect between he and Smith.
Smith’s touchdowns of 74, 41 and 18 yards — all against cornerback Justin King — were the first three catches of his career. The former University of Maryland standout and second-round pick finished with five catches for 152 yards.
Smith, getting his first career start with Evans inactive, became just the 12th player in NFL history and the first rookie to have three touchdowns in a quarter.
“I never doubted myself for a minute,” Smith said. “I’ve been playing football forever. I’ve been making plays forever.”
Smith’s first touchdown came on Baltimore’s second play from scrimmage. Smith ran past King along the sideline, caught Flacco’s pass in stride and then sprinted into the end zone. The 74-yard touchdown was the longest completion of Flacco’s career.
About nine minutes later and two plays after Flacco just missed a diving Smith in the end zone, the two connected for a 41-yard touchdown strike for a 14-0 lead.
The Ravens quickly got the ball back and after a 28-yard run by Ricky Williams, Flacco hit Smith on a fade route in the left corner of the end zone for a 21-0 advantage with 1 minute 53 seconds left in the first quarter.
Had place kicker Billy Cundiff not missed two 51-yard field goals, the Ravens would have scored on all seven of their first-half possessions.
The Rams, who were booed off the field at halftime, were outgained 406-81 in the first half. Second-year quarterback Sam Bradford managed just three yards passing. The Rams also had just six first downs in the half.
St. Louis did move the ball a little in the second half, and scored its lone touchdown on Bradford’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson.
“We got back on track,” said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had four tackles and a sack. “You got to win the games you’re supposed to win. We don’t discredit the Rams. They’re a good team. They’re a young team. They have a good young quarterback. I don’t think they need to fret. They just ran up against a veteran team.”
— Baltimore Sun