Ed Dickson couldn't argue with a point made by Ravens coach John Harbaugh, recently. When it came to the tight ends, the group needed to be more productive.
The tight ends answered the challenge, contributing heavily in the first half of the Ravens' 55-20 demolition of the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Dennis Pitta led the team with five receptions and finished in a tie with wide receiver Torrey Smith for the team lead in receiving yards with 67. He also caught a 5-yard touchdown from quarterback Joe Flacco in the second quarter.
Dickson caught two passes for 59 yards, including a 40-yarder that set up the Ravens' first touchdown, a 1-yard sneak by Flacco in the first quarter.
"We did need to be more productive, we were non-existent," Dickson said, agreeing with Harbaugh's assessment. "So we — myself included — took advantage of the free time [during the bye week] and getting a little more chemistry with Joe and working on the little things. We know the type of players we want to be. We want longevity in this league. And we want to be the type of players that are going to be productive for this team."
Pitta and Dickson did all of their damage in the first half against the Raiders, who were so worried about Smith and fellow wideout Anquan Boldin that they devoted both of their safeties to playing out wide and deep.
"They were trying to prevent those guys from really getting the ball and being a big factor in the game, and because of that, it left the middle of the field open a little bit," Flacco said. "… I think that was one reason that they were able to get single coverage in there, and they did a good job."
Oakland cornerback Michael Huff said the defense wasn't surprised by Pitta and Dickson's exploits.
"Coming in, we knew they had two great tight ends as weapons," he said. "We just didn't communicate on the back end."
It was a welcome sight for an offense that had mustered just 15 points in three of its last four contests. And it was especially satisfying for Pitta, who had been mired in a drought over the past five games.
After catching 18 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns in the first three weeks, Pitta had recorded just 14 receptions for 121 yards without a touchdown prior to Sunday.
Pitta, who finished a win against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 27 without a catch for the first time this season, said he never worried about his productivity.
"Every week, we are part of the game plan, but you really can't predict how much you are going to get involved because that is dictated by the defensive looks," said Pitta, who caught his first touchdown pass since Sept. 23 against the New England Patriots. "But we have the same mindset going into each game. Today, we were able to take advantage of some of the things we saw on film, and it ended up being a good day for us."
For Dickson, the 59 yards Sunday were a season high and the most since Nov. 13, 2011 when he posted 79 yards on 10 receptions and two touchdowns in the team's 22-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Dickson, who surrendered the starting role to Pitta after the team's season-opening 44-13 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals, still hasn't caught more than two passes in a game yet this season, but he said he's not frustrated with his diminished role in the passing attack.
"It's not really frustrating because when you look at it, we're 7-2, and we're doing some great things," he said. "I'm a total team player. If it takes me blocking the whole game, [I'll be happy] as long as we're getting the victory. I'm not going to complain if we're hoisting that Lombardi Trophy at the end of the year. I do want to be more productive, and I've just got to take advantage. The plays they give me, I've got to make sure to make the catch and do things with it."
Flacco said the encouraging thing is that every receiver on offense is willing to sacrifice personal numbers for the team goals.
"I don't think we have any selfish guys," he said. "I'm sure every receiver goes into every game hoping that they have 100 yards or so and a few touchdowns. I think everybody thinks that way a little bit. But when you get into the game, you just play, and you don't worry about those kinds of things, and that's the kind of guys we have."