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With Torrey Smith out, Steve Smith and young guys give Ravens a lift

The Ravens got unexpected production from second-year wide receivers Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken.

The early indications were not good.

Starting receiver Torrey Smith had already been nursing a knee injury during the week, but after a good pregame workout Sunday, the knee started to swell. Smith still played a couple of series in the game against the Dolphins, but was more decoy than target.

But it didn't matter. Even without Smith, the Ravens lit up the Dolphins and one of the best pass defenses in the NFL.

All things considered — playing on the road, caliber of competition and what was at stake — it was the Ravens' best passing performance of the season. Just about everybody got involved.

Quarterback Joe Flacco completed 25 of 33 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns and nine different players caught passes including tight end Phillip Supernaw, who wasn't even listed on the Ravens' game day depth chart.

Who is Supernaw? Well, it was just that kind of day. Ravens receiver Steve Smith wasn't ready to party, but he did have some celebratory moments.

"Last week killed us," Smith said. "The way it happened, what it did. It just took a lot out of us. But, you've got to use the game like last week in the same regard as if you had won. You can't sit there and throw a party if you won, and you can't throw a pity party if you lose.

"You just got to get back on the horse. I'm not a horse rider anyway, but you still got to get back on the horse and just hold on."

No. 1 receivers are so moody. Smith was clearly irritated after last week's loss to San Diego when he caught one pass for two yards and dropped two others.

The message is clear on Smith. If you don't get him the ball early, he becomes disinterested as if he would rather be home watching another rerun of Gilligan's Island.

But Sunday, Flacco threw to him on the Ravens' first two plays of the game, one for a nine-yard completion. Now that he had Smith's attention, he was ready to go. Smith finished with seven catches for 70 yards and one touchdown.

He was happy, happy, happy.

"I honestly didn't talk too much to [offensive coordinator] Gary [Kubiak] about doing that," Flacco said. "I think he is at best when you get him the ball early and it was just one of those games that worked out like that.

"Obviously, you call the play and you really don't know if it's going to go to him. You can even draw up plays for him and you might not get it to him. It was great to get him involved early and he was big for us down the stretch."

Miami had pulled to 14-13 with 12:43 left in the game, but the Ravens answered with a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. On two of those plays, Smith had catches for 15 and 18 yards. The Dolphins had no answers for him on the outside or in the middle of the field.

But you expect those types of plays and clutch catches from Smith. Two surprises were young receivers Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken.

Aiken, in his second year out of Central Florida, had six catches for 65 yards and a 13-yard touchdown. Brown, also in his second year out of Georgia, had three catches for 30 yards.

Because of his size (6-4, 215 pounds), Brown is becoming almost like a tight end inside the red zone. He has great hands and can post up smaller cornerbacks and safeties.

On the Ravens' opening drive of the third quarter, Brown caught a 14-yard pass over the middle on third down and 11 at the Miami 27. On the next play, Aiken caught a 13-yard touchdown pass across the middle.

"I talked to Torrey and he told me to have his back and I told him I have his back and that's it," Aiken said. "We have a brotherhood among receivers first off, so if we have one of our guys not going or not feeling too well, we're going to pick up the slack and we're not going to skip a beat."

They didn't. The Ravens allowed only one sack and Flacco appeared comfortable in the pocket most of the afternoon. But the key to this passing game is the same person who designed the offense.

After the first two series, Kubiak had the Dolphins completely off balance. He had solved their defense and was dialing up crossing and clearing patterns. The Ravens were using picks in the middle of the field and rubs on the goal line.

That hasn't been seen a lot in Baltimore

The Dolphins had no answers. It is one thing to beat up on Tampa Bay or Atlanta, but Miami came into the game with the league's No. 2-ranked pass defense and two top players in their secondary in cornerback Brent Grimes and safety Reshad Jones.

"It's outstanding," Steve Smith said of Aiken and Brown. "Marlon and Kamar are always joking, saying if I don't want to take any of the running plays, every play is just more and more toward their player performance basis. At the same time, those guys are working their tail off. They work so hard during the week.

"They do an outstanding job during the week and it pays off on the weekend. It's great. Those guys push me and I try to push them. All we're trying to do is push each other."

And Sunday, they may have pushed the Dolphins out of the playoff picture.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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