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Pace slowing, production declining for Steve Smith in past four games

Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith.
Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

When veteran wide receiver Steve Smith joined the Ravens in March, the five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver had designs on proving the Carolina Panthers had made a mistake by cutting him.

After 10 games, Smith has displayed that he has plenty of football left in him by catching 49 passes for 728 yards and four touchdowns. He's tied for 14th in the NFL in receptions and is on pace to finish the season with 78 catches for 1,164 yards and six touchdowns, numbers that would exceed his production last year of 64 catches, 745 yards and four touchdowns.

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However, Smith's involvement in the offense has declined lately. Over the past four games, Smith has caught just 14 passes for 155 yards and no touchdowns. His last 100-yard performance was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 12 when he caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Since that game, Smith has averaged 3.5 catches per game for 38.75 yards.

Smith, 35, caught three passes for a season-low 17 yards on seven targets Sunday during a 21-7 win over the Tennessee Titans, a game in which he didn't generate many yards after the catch as he averaged 5.6 yards per reception.

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"I don't think that they've been doing anything," offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said when asked if defenses are doing anything special to try to contain Smith. "We've got some pressure here lately, having to do some things from that standpoint. I think Steve was still targeted last week seven or eight times, but we've had some other guys making some plays, too.

"So, the ball is getting spread around. I think that's the nature of the game, but we just keep plugging. Steve is working hard. He's doing a great job."

In the first four regular-season games after signing his three-year, $11 million contract, Smith caught 25 passes for 429 yards and three touchdowns.

"I have to always find ways to get guys the ball," Kubiak said. "I wish I could get them all the perfect amount every week, but those things usually don't work that way.

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"You have to get all of your playmakers the ball. Steve is doing a good job, and hopefully we get him back on the track that he was on earlier in the year."

awilson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/RavensInsider

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