Baltimore Sun Ravens' editor Mark Selig offers his prediction for Sunday's matchup between the Ravens and the Oakland Raiders at M&T Bank stadium. (Baltimore Sun video)
The play was one of the low points of Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith's disappointing 2015 season.
On just the sixth play from scrimmage in a 37-33 loss to the Oakland Raiders in Week 2 last September, wide receiver Amari Cooper ran right past Smith down the left sideline, and Derek Carr hit the rookie in stride for a 68-yard touchdown. The catch was part of a seven-reception, 109-yard afternoon for Cooper, who repeatedly found space in the Ravens secondary.
Smith will likely get a rematch with Cooper when the Raiders visit the Ravens on Sunday at 1 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium.
"Last year's game was last year's game. Obviously, you get a little bit of a feel for how they run their routes, how they play the game. But last year was last year. They might come out with a whole new game plan this year. You have to be prepared for that," said Smith, who struggled most of last season trying to come back from foot surgery.
"This is another game. We're trying to be 4-0. I don't really take things personal. That's not the type of guy I am. It's just another game. We know what type of player he is. We know what he can do to change a game."
Last week, the Ravens faced the Jacksonville Jaguars' prolific young receiving duo of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. This week, their task is limiting the damage of Cooper and veteran Michael Crabtree. In last year's game, the two combined for 16 catches, 220 yards and two touchdowns.
"Amari Cooper, the first day he stepped on the field in the National Football League, was a star. He's a threat to take it to the house, whether they throw it over you or they throw it to him right away on a screen and he takes it," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He can run every route. Michael Crabtree, I have a lot of respect for Michael, because he played for my brother. I got to know him a little bit that way. He's back, and he's a premier receiver, also."
Carr, the Raiders' third-year starter, certainly has other weapons at his disposal, but Cooper and Crabtree are his clear go-to guys and primary reasons for Oakland entering the game with the league's second-ranked offense.
Cooper, the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, has 15 catches for 270 yards this fall after a rookie season in which he had 72 receptions for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns, and made the Pro Bowl. Crabtree, who has had a career rebirth in Oakland, has a team-leading 19 receptions for 220 yards and one score.
With Carr working behind a quality offensive line, the Raiders represent the biggest challenge yet for the Ravens' revamped secondary and a defense that surrendered 448 yards to Oakland last season.