The Ravens have had deep thoughts all season, with only the Detroit Lions throwing the ball beyond 20 yards more often, but until a couple of weeks ago the results they desired had not been coming into fruition.
Over the past two weeks, though, the Ravens have been clicking with the deep passing game. In their win over the New York Jets in Week 12, quarterback Joe Flacco had a pair of passing plays of 60 or more yards. And in the Week 13 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, he hit Torrey Smith for a 54-yard completion.
The Ravens came out throwing against the Steelers on Thursday. Flacco underthrew wide receiver Jacoby Jones on a deep ball on the first play from scrimmage. Later in that drive, Flacco threw an accurate deep ball to Smith, who got behind the Steelers secondary for a 54-yard catch that nearly went for six points.
"I think right out of the gates, we wanted to make sure we took advantage of those things and push them off us a little bit," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said.
Overall, Flacco attempted six throws of 20 or more yards against the Steelers, completing two of them for 88 yards.
A week earlier, against the Jets, Flacco completed two of his four deep attempts for 126 yards and a touchdown to Jones.
Over that span, Flacco was 4-for-10 for 214 yards and a touchdown, giving him a deep passer rating of 120.8. Had Smith gained that final yard against the Steelers and made it a 55-yard touchdown reception, his deep passer rating would have been 127.1.
That is a major improvement from his first 10 games of the season, when he completed 10 of his 63 deep attempts for 429 yards, five interceptions and no touchdowns, giving him a 22.4 deep passer rating.
"We do think we can make plays down the field with our guys," Harbaugh said. "We've felt that way all year, and hopefully here in the next four weeks and pushing into the playoffs if we can make this run, that should be a big part of our offense."
Flacco and the Ravens should have more opportunities to beat opponents deep in the next two weeks. The Minnesota Vikings, whom they host on Sunday, are 30th in the league in pass defense, having allowed 287 yards per game. The Detroit Lions, whom the Ravens play the following week, rank 26th at 262 per game.