When Qadry Ismail sprained his left knee Sunday, Ravens quarterback Tony Banks lost more than his most reliable wide receiver.
Four minutes into a game the Ravens desperately needed to win, Banks lost his comfort zone, too.
"Q's a security blanket," Banks said. "We communicate a lot during practice and on the field. He likes to be on the same page as me, and I think the other receivers do, too.
"But Qadry takes it to another level, in the communication aspect of it. If he's in one-on-one out there, I'm looking for him. I don't necessarily have that consistency with the other guys yet, at that level. But we've got a lot of talent out there."
Banks tapped into that reservoir for a career day Sunday. He threw for 262 yards and five touchdowns, the last with 41 seconds left to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 39-36. Now, he's going to have to play without his favorite receiver at least one more time.
Ravens coach Brian Billick said yesterday that Ismail will be out one to two weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament, which means he'll miss Sunday night's nationally televised game against the Miami Dolphins.
Not to worry. Banks is already building new relationships with rookie wide receiver Travis Taylor and veteran Billy Davis. Before the practice week is over, Banks will know the route-running tendencies of both Patrick Johnson and Brandon Stokley, as well.
The loss of Ismail - no small setback - has opened the door of opportunity for the rest of the wide receivers.
"Certainly Qadry has been a playmaker for us the last 17, 18 games," said offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh. "We'll obviously be anxious to get him back in the lineup. But until then, some guys are going to have to step up."
Taylor, the 10th pick in this year's draft, made the biggest move on Sunday, going from flanker to Ismail's split end position with dramatic results. He caught four passes for 80 yards, including a 40-yard bomb to start the second half, and two touchdowns.
It was a performance that earned Taylor his first game ball and a hearty endorsement from Billick.
"I don't know if a layman can truly understand the position Travis was put in," Billick said. "It doesn't seem like much to go from left guard to right guard, from safety to cornerback. For him, it's a completely different set of route combinations being on the back side by himself as opposed to the two-receiver side with the tight end or slot man."
Once Ismail went out, Billick asked Taylor if he could make the switch. Taylor's response: "Yes, sir."
"And then, to show up the way he did," Billick said. "He didn't just go out there and fill the spot, he had a hell of a game. For Tony to recognize that he had someone new out there, that was amazing to see. I don't know if I've seen that in my 25 years coaching."
Taylor, who didn't take a snap at Ismail's position until Sunday, will remain at split end in Week 3. He spoke frequently with Ismail during Sunday's game about his routes.
"I'm going to take all the pointers I can from Q," he said. "I'll have to spend more time in the film room, watching the defense. And I will have Q by my side."
Asked how long it would take to develop a passing relationship with Banks like Ismail, Taylor didn't waver.
"We might already have it," he said. "We talk all the time. We're getting in a groove together."
Johnson, injured the first week of training camp, is eager to return from a broken collarbone. Cleared to play two weeks ago, he was inactive the first two games. He will line up in the three-wide receiver set with Jermaine Lewis on Sunday.
"It's only a matter of time until I get the feel back," said Johnson.
Lewis made a splash Sunday, too. He had a 12-yard touchdown catch - the sixth of his career against the Jaguars - among three receptions, and also had a 23-yard first-down run on a direct snap when Banks lined up at wide receiver.
Banks' two-year evolution under Billick is reaping dividends. His six touchdown passes this season lead the NFL. In 12 starts for the Ravens - eight of them wins - he has thrown for 23 touchdowns. He is the sixth-rated passer in the AFC with a rating of 92.4.
Perhaps most impressive in Sunday's game-winning, 75-yard drive was how he threw underneath the Jaguars' two-deep zone defense to take the Ravens down the field. The coup de grace was a 29-yard touchdown strike to tight end Shannon Sharpe on a play he had either missed or failed to make the throw on three occasions.
Cavanaugh kept planting the seed on the sideline until Banks delivered.
"I think that should be huge for Tony, and huge for our offense," Cavanaugh said. "We're certainly not known around here as the part of the team that carries us. We've had our struggles, and I'm sure our defense has been waiting for us to step up and win a game.
"It was nice to do it when they had a little bit of a struggle. It means a lot. It should give the guys confidence that they've done it, and not to be surprised. There's going to be enough times these next 14 games that we're going to have to do it again."