www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/bs-sp-ravens-notes-0102-20120101,0,4927742.story

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Flacco, Pitta in sync when it counted

Without WR Boldin, quarterback targets young tight end in key spots

By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

9:46 PM EST, January 1, 2012

CINCINNATI —

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Sporting nearly identical Fu Manchu mustaches, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and tight end Dennis Pitta also displayed a keen sense of awareness in the passing game and contributed to the team's 24-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.

Without trusted wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who was deactivated because of a knee injury for the second consecutive game, Flacco targeted Pitta seven times, which tied rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith for the team lead.

Pitta's 62 receiving yards were a career and season best, and his six catches tied a career and season high set against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 30.

"Some teams, we take what they give us," Pitta said. "Tonight, I was a big target for Joe, and we were able to complete some big balls in the game, and that's just kind of how it went."

Two of Pitta's receptions gained first downs, and he made two more catches during the offense's final series of the first half, which was capped by Pitta's nine-yard grab in the back right corner of the end zone to give the Ravens a 17-3 lead at halftime.

"He did a great job running up on the guy and breaking out to the corner," Flacco said. "The cornerback hugged up on Torrey, and I wanted to make sure that he had no shot at getting to it. So I laid it out in the back corner and he [Pitta] did a good job. Those balls do sometimes feel like they're going to take forever, so he did a good job making sure he went up and caught the ball and got himself down inbounds."

Several times, Pitta lined up as a wide receiver in the offense's two-tight end sets with Ed Dickson just outside the tackles. Pitta also spelled fullback Vonta Leach a few times.

"It's just one of those things where against certain looks – and obviously with Anquan out – I was able to flex out a little bit more and do some stuff out of that look," Pitta said. "There were just some good opportunities for us to make plays, and we were able to do that."

Yanda starts, makes key block for Rice's first TD

Not only did Marshal Yanda avoid missing his first start since Nov. 22, 2009, but the right guard also performed well against the Bengals.

Yanda had missed the previous two days of practice after suffering ribs and thigh bruises in Saturday's 20-14 win against the Cleveland Browns, but returned to practice Friday on a limited basis. Yanda, who was listed as doubtful, made his presence known when he prevented Cincinnati middle linebacker Rey Maualuga from getting to running back Ray Rice as he scampered 70 yards for a touchdown on the fourth play of the game.

"I was confident that if I got in there, I would be fine," Yanda said. "I didn't really know until this morning how I was going to feel. I figured, 'I'm going to give it a go and play.' I got loosened up, got the blood flowing, and felt good. We just stayed at it. And to break that big run on the fourth play, that was huge."

E.Reed takes responsibility

Ed Reed did not enjoy the kind of day he is accustomed to experiencing.

The free safety who was just voted to his eighth Pro Bowl barely missed grabbing his fourth interception of the season when Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton overthrew tight end Donald Lee on a seam route in the end zone. Reed was also not happy about not preventing running back Bernard Scott from scoring on a 25-yard run off left tackle in the third quarter.

"He slipped past us," Reed said. "I should've made the tackle."

Cundiff makes triumphant return

Billy Cundiff's sore left calf wasn't a problem for the Ravens kicker Sunday.

Cundiff, who had sat out the team's win against the Browns and was questionable to play against the Bengals, converted a 42-yarder in the first quarter, made three extra points, and registered two touchbacks.

"There was no doubt in my mind I was going to play," said Cundiff, who set a single-season career high with 122 points. "I knew that if I could make it through a week of practice without any ill effects, it would hold up. I wanted to play, and I was really happy the coaches went ahead and gave me the green light."

Ravens absorb more injuries

The first-round bye in the AFC playoffs will be particularly useful as several Ravens players suffered injuries Sunday.

Rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith and strong safety Tom Zbikowski each sustained concussions. For Zbikowski, this is his second concussion of the season. His first concussion shelved him for two games and paved the way for Bernard Pollard to overtake him as the starting strong safety.

Inside linebackers Jameel McClain and Brendon Ayanbadejo suffered knee and quad sprains, respectively. Of the four injured players, only McClain was able to return to the contest.

End zone

In addition to Yanda, cornerback Cary Williams and defensive end Cory Redding took their customary starting roles on defense. Williams had been limited in practice last week by post-concussion symptoms, but led the team with three pass breakups and finished with six tackles. Redding, who did not play against Cleveland due to an injured right ankle, made four tackles. … In addition to Boldin, the team deactivated kicker Shayne Graham, inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (post-concussion symptoms), cornerback Danny Gorrer, outside linebacker Sergio Kindle, rookie running back Anthony Allen and rookie offensive tackle D.J. Jones. … Cincinnati scratched strong safety Taylor Mays (hamstring), outside linebacker Dontay Moch (illness), free safety Robert Sands, guard Otis Hudson, tight end Colin Cochart, wide receiver Armon Binns and defensive tackle Nick Hayden.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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