ST. LOUIS -- Torrey Smith blocked out the noise, ignored his critics quick to label him as a bust and silenced the doubters inside and outside the Baltimore Ravens' locker room.
The Baltimore Ravens' speedy rookie wide receiver delivered a convincing rebuttal after a quiet start to his NFL career where he had been shut out with no catches in his first two games and was being constantly razzed by older teammates.
All it took was a little faith and his two legs propelling Smith like booster rockets into the end zone during the Ravens' 37-7 rout of the winless, downtrodden St. Louis Rams on Sunday before an announced crowd of 56, 289 at Edward Jones Dome.
Smith caught three touchdown passes in the first quarter for his first three NFL receptions, exploiting befuddled cornerback Justin King all three times. Finishing with five receptions for 152 yards with scores from 74, 41 and 18 yards in his first start, the former University of Maryland star became the 12th player in NFL history and the first rookie to score three touchdowns in one quarter.
"I never doubted myself for a minute, I've been playing football forever," said Smith, a second-round draft pick who had only been targeted once by quarterback Joe Flacco in the first two games. "I've been making plays forever. Having a good game, it shows other people that haven't seen me play, that I can play.
"For me, I've always been confident, and my teammates know I'm confident. I haven't been struggling or stressing. That's what I can do. I can stretch the field. For me, to have a game like this, it definitely helps me knowing I can go deep."
By providing a deep threat in the absence of injured veteran wide receiver Lee Evans, Smith helped the Ravens (2-1) manufacture a franchise record with 553 yards of total offense. The Ravens raced out to a 27-0 lead by halftime by piling up 406 yards, the most ever for the franchise in a half.
Two plays into the Ravens' first series, Smith dashed past King on the sideline on a fly route.
Smith never slowed down as his fingertips hauled in a perfect spiral from Flacco, who delivered the longest completion of his career.
"He's an explosive player," Flacco said. "We gave him a chance to make some plays and he came up big. That has a chance to be big for us down the road because it gets his confidence up. We really know that he can make those plays now. When he gets up and going, you can just lay the ball out there.
"I was taking a shot. I trust Torrey and I just felt like, ‘He could get by the guy.' I laid it out there for him and it worked out. He ran by the guy. I let the ball go and he kept going."
Just a week ago, Flacco had one of the worst games of his career during a demoralizing loss to the Tennessee Titans where he was intercepted twice.
Against the Rams, the Ravens relied on Flacco's strong right arm.
He completed 27 of 48 passes for a career-high 389 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 103.6 passer rating.
It was an aggressive approach by offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, and an offense that routinely relies upon the running game.
Only Vinny Testaverde has ever passed for more yards (429 during the Ravens' inaugural season in 1996) in a single game for Baltimore than Flacco's Sunday output.
"We came out and we attacked," Flacco said. "I was thinking to myself, ‘What are the top teams in this league? What are they?' They are passing teams. Do they run the ball? Yeah, but they really throw the ball very well. They're not just the top offenses, they're the top teams.
"Is the goal getting to the playoffs for us? No, it's not getting to the playoffs for us. We know we can do that. The goal is to win the Super Bowl."
Flacco proved that he trusted Smith, too, going back to the rookie after misfiring to him in the end zone.
Flacco went back to him for a 41-yard touchdown behind King and safety Darian Stewart as the rookie darted inside on a post route and managed to find a crease for the Ravens' second touchdown.
"Who knows what he was thinking or how confident he was coming into this game?" Flacco said. "But I'm sure he's very confident coming out of this game.
"I don't really notice those things. I don't blink. Whoever is out there at receiver, it's my job to get them the ball. I really don't think much about the chemistry and the trust thing. It has to be there. You just do it. That's what trust is."
Smith had a shaky preseason and had been dropping balls in practice.
It was enough to alarm fans and make Smith the target of some good-natured ribbing from older teammates, especially linebacker Terrell Suggs.
"Torrey had no choice but to keep his confidence up," coach John Harbaugh said. "Our guys had been riding him for about a month straight, and they were led by Terrell Suggs. They are a band of brothers on the defensive side. They toughen you up like an armadillo.
"Torrey fought through it, and the last couple of weeks he has really been catching the ball well in practice. I think he and Joe are starting to tie this thing together."
Smith was the recipient of some counsel by the Ravens' oldest, wisest player: All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
"I told him at the beginning of the game: 'Just go back to playing schoolyard football, If you were the fastest on the field, then make everyone catch you,'" Lewis said. "Everyone knew that this guy could flat out run, and the scariest thing to do is to give him confidence.
"That's when Joe really believed in him, stepping in there and throwing him the ball on the first play of the game. That's huge for us."
Smith acknowledged that the criticism was starting to annoy him.
He even reacted strongly to some comments directed at him from fans via his Twitter account.
"It's tough, I'm big on social media, and talking to people that I wouldn't get a chance to talk to on an everyday basis. After the Redskins game, I had two drops, and all of a sudden, I can't catch a cold. I can't do anything right. I know that comes with the game and that's expected. I dropped two balls that I should have caught.
"Fans only understand one thing that they see. I was drafted in the second round, and a lot was expected. If you don't see him catch the ball, well he's not getting open. Then, he stinks. He drops two passes, and that's what you're expecting. It comes with the territory. I know I can play."
Before kickoff Sunday, Smith wrote on his Twitter account: "I have a good feeling about today."
It was a prescient note.
Flacco wasn't done throwing to Smith after the first two scores.
Following a 28-yard run by Ricky Williams, Flacco lobbed a fade pass to the left corner of the end zone. And Smith outleapt King for a 21-0 lead with just under two minutes to play in the first quarter.
"I had a good feeling going into this week," Smith said. "I've been practicing well the past few weeks, and this week I definitely had my best practice as a Raven. They say you practice like you play, and it just worked well."
If not for a pair of missed field goals by kicker Billy Cundiff from 51 yards, the Ravens would have scored on all seven possessions in the first half.
Cundiff would come back to connect on kicks from 21, 31 and 38 yards.
The Ravens limited the Rams to 81 yards in the first half and just three net passing yards by halftime as Sam Bradford connected on only 4 of his first 15 throws for 17 yards while being sacked twice. The Rams converted only 1 of 8 third downs and had just six first downs in the first half.
Bradford finished 16 of 32 for 166 yards and an interception as Baltimore shut down the Rams' no-huddle attack.
"We got back on track," Suggs said. "You got to win the games you're supposed to win. We don't discredit the Rams. They're a good team. They're a young team. They have a good young quarterback. I don't think they need to fret. They just ran up against a veteran team."
The former top overall draft pick from Oklahoma was sacked five times with one forced fumble returned 28 yards by All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata for a 28-yard touchdown to finish the Ravens' scoring.
The Ravens' shutout bid was foiled when cornerback Cary Williams mistimed his jump on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Bradford to Sam Gibson in the third quarter that only brought the Rams to within 30-7.
And the Ravens' cause was boosted by running back Ray Rice, who rushed for 79 yards on eight carries with 53 yards coming on one run. He also caught five passes for 83 yards.
It was Smith, though, that led the way for the Ravens.
"I couldn't be more proud of him," Rice said. "You are definitely proud to see him go out there and to see all his hard work paid off. The kid works hard. I tell him all the time, ‘You didn't get drafted that high for no reason. Now, go out there and let your game speak for itself.'"
Notebook: Ravens make Rams scrap no-huddle offense
ST. LOUIS --The Baltimore Ravens forced the St. Louis Rams to abandon their usually potent no-huddle offense.
Harassing quarterback Sam Bradford into a frustrating day, the Ravens sacked him five times with one forced fumble returned for a touchdown during a 37-7 victory Sunday at Edward Jones Dome.
By halftime, Bradford had already been intercepted once as he completed only 4 of his first 15 passes for 17 yards. Sacked twice, he had just three net passing yards in the first half.
Before kickoff, defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano had predicted this might happen.
"Coach Pagano said depending on how we handle the no-huddle will depend on how much we would see it," said Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who sacked Bradford once. "We didn't want to see that [crap]. We nipped that [crap] in the bud the first few times they ran it. It was a big issue around the NFL. They knew we were going to plan for that."
Bradford shredded the New York Giants' secondary, but had no answers for the Ravens.
"I took probably more hits than I have in a while," Bradford said. "We just weren't very effective throwing the ball. I think it comes from a lot of things. I've got to do a better job of making reads, getting the ball out quicker. And then when we do have one-on-one matchups, we have to win."
The Ravens didn't even have to resort to faking injuries, as the Giants did. Suggs joked last week that he would mimic their acting job.
"Nah, we weren't going to grab the hammy," Suggs said. "Ray Lewis wouldn't let us do that. We wanted to put that in their minds to think that we were going to do that. We did a good job preparing for it. We did a great job with it, so we didn't see too much of it."
A former top overall draft pick from Oklahoma and NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year, Bradford completed only 16 of 32 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown for a 62.8 passer rating.
"I think they saw we did a great job of stopping them," safety Bernard Pollard said. "I think they got away from it because they weren't as effective as they were against the Giants."
The Ravens struggled a week ago against Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's quick-strike approach.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh attributed the improvement to a sound game plan.
"Defensively, I credit Chuck Pagano," he said. "I think he put together a really good game plan to handle the no-huddle. He did a great job of giving the guys a sign system together that our guys were able to learn and execute it really well."
The Ravens' shutout bid was spoiled in the third quarter when cornerback Cary Williams mistimed his leap on a 34-yard touchdown from Bradford to wide receiver Brandon Gibson.
"I misjudged it, plain and simple," Williams said. "I jumped early. I mistimed it."
Overall, though, the Ravens handled the fast-break offense well.
"We knew what was coming," Williams said. "Chuck Pagano did a good job of getting the plays in early. I think we all did a good job. I just wish I wasn't the guy who gave up the touchdown."
NAKAMURA INJURES KNEE: The most serious injury was suffered by backup safety Haruki Nakamura, who left the game in the first quarter and didn't return with a damager posterior cruciate ligament.
He'll undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam today.
"We'll have to see," Harbaugh said. "There's some hope there."
Inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe injured his hamstring and will be examined again today to determine the severity.
"Ellerbe had a hamstring grab on him," Harbaugh said. "We'll check to see if it's torn. I don't think it is, but we just have to check on it. All in all, we got through it pretty well."
Kicker Billy Cundiff narrowly escaped an injury when he got hit by wide receiver Danario Alexander in the calf on an extra point, an infraction that drew a roughing the kicker penalty late in the fourth quarter.
"That's nothing serious," Harbaugh said. "That was unfortunate, disappointing."
Added Cundiff: "I'll be OK. I should be all right. It's sore. We'll see if it's a big deal."
Cundiff said he was surprised that the Rams went after the block attempt trailing by so many points.
"It's frustrating to think they're still going after it," Cundiff said. "I know they were frustrated."
The Ravens were relieved that rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith only had a bit of tightness in his right hamstring after a three-touchdown performance.
"It was just a cramp," Smith said. "I'm fine."
NGATA SCORES: Signed to a $61 million contract last week that included a $25 million signing bonus, All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata gave the Ravens an immediate return on their investment.
Ngata scored a touchdown on 28-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter on a Bradford fumble forced by middle linebacker Ray Lewis. He adeptly bent over to scoop up the loose football on the bounce and rumbled into the end zone.
"We called a pressure on that play and Ray Lewis was able to get the ball out of Sam's hand," Ngata said. "I got a lucky bounce and got a head start running and was able to get into the end zone."
For Ngata, it was just a routine day at the office even after his financial windfall.
"Definitely, I'm always trying to get better every week," he said. "Hopefully, I can get even better next week and make more plays."
TWO MISSES: Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff was frustrated after misfiring twice from 51 yards, which is usually within his range.
After missing the consecutive kicks in the first half, Cundiff connected for field goals from 21, 31 and 38 yards.
"I was disappointed," Cundiff said. "It's within my range. The first one was off a bit on my aiming point. I struck the ball very well. I'll look at the film. I look at it as a chance moving forward to make sure I don't make the same mistakes.
"I'm really disappointed about the second kick. It's something I take pride in, not missing back-to-back kicks. I felt like I had a chance to make that 51-yarder."
CARR RETURNS: Cornerback Chris Carr returned from a left hamstring injury that sidelined him against the Titans after he aggravated the leg in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He played in the nickel package and didn't suffer a setback.
"I felt pretty good," Carr said. "I didn't feel 100 percent but I felt pretty well. I felt like I can play and still be effective. It was a good game back for me."
GURODE MAKES DEBUT: The Ravens started Andre Gurode at left offensive guard for the first time with starter Ben Grubbs sidelined for the second week in a row with a right toe injury.
The five-time Pro Bowl center seemed to hold up well, and Joe Flacco was only sacked twice.
Gurode replaced Mark LeVoir in the starting lineup one week after LeVoir started against the Tennessee Titans.
"He had never really played left guard to my knowledge," Harbaugh said. "He played right guard early in his career. He was working the angles during the week. The pass protection really looked good. That's a credit really to the communication between [six-time Pro Bowl center] Matt [Birk] and the line."
FIRST SACK: Rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee recorded the first sack of his NFL career, sacking Bradford for a four-yard loss.
"It feels real good," said the fifth-round draft pick from Mississippi State. "I feel wonderful."
McPhee said that veteran defensive end Cory Redding cleared a path for him on a loop.
"It was just a regular rush," McPhee said. "Cory came first and I wrapped around. The hole opened up for me and I came scot free."
NO RELIEF FOR FLACCO: Harbaugh drew some criticism by the Rams' radio broadcasters for leaving Flacco in the game late in the fourth quarter and having him attempt some throws rather than inserting rookie backup Tyrod Taylor.
He threw incomplete to rookie wide receiver Tandon Doss, who drew a 36-yard pass interference penalty.
Then, Harbaugh had Flacco kneel down twice to end the game.
"My thinking there was to try to get the first down," Harbaugh said. "Could you put Tyrod in there? I guess you could. If you look around the league, I don't think that happens much. I think it's something we might do in the future. I do see the point. I think putting Tyrod in there is arguable."
OHER ISSUES: Offensive tackle Michael Oher had no false starts after committing a pair against the Titans.
However, he was flagged once for holding and another time for illegal use of the hands.
He was also beaten for a sack by Rams defensive end Chris Long.
LINEUP LOOP: Besides holding out Grubbs, LeVoir and wide receiver Lee Evans (left ankle injury), the Ravens also deactivated cornerback Domonique Foxworth for the first time.
Foxworth tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee a year ago and had been playing "very, very conservatively," according to Harbaugh.
The Ravens also scratched wide receiver and kick returner David Reed (left shoulder), cornerback Jimmy Smith (left high ankle sprain) and outside linebacker Sergio Kindle.
One year removed from missing his entire rookie season with a fractured skull, Kindle has been inactive for all three regular-season games.
PAYBACK: Defensive end Arthur Jones retaliated against Rams offensive tackle Jason Smith when Smith took a cheap shot on middle linebacker Ray Lewis, knocking him down to the ground.
Smith was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct in the third quarter for hitting Lewis late.
QUICK HITS: The Rams deactivated wide receiver Danny Amendola (dislocated elbow), safety Jermale Hines, running back Quinn Porter, linebacker Jabara Williams, tight end Stephen Spach, wide receiver Greg Salas and defensive end C.J. Ah You.
For Doss, this marked the first NFL regular-season game that he had been active for. He was targeted just once. "It felt really good to get in the game and get my feet wet," Doss said. "I hope to do even more next week." ... Fellow rookie wide receiver LaQuan Williams caught one pass for seven yards and was targeted three times. He was flagged once for offensive pass interference. "I guess I pushed off," said Williams, an undrafted rookie from the University of Maryland. "I extended my arms a little further than I should have." He also had a 37-yard kickoff return.
"That's what I was planning to do," Williams said. "I was comfortable." ... A moment of silence was observed for the late Ravens offensive tackle Orlando "Zeus" Brown, who was found dead of unknown causes Friday. Before kickoff, Harbaugh talked with the team about the intensity Brown played the game with. "I think anybody that's seen him play, played with him or played around him knows exactly how he played the game," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "He never took anything from anybody. He was a force out on the field and he imposed his will on people. That's what we wanted to do today."
BALTIMORE RAVENS' REPORT CARD
Joe Flacco regained his touch and timing, getting the football out of his hand quickly and into his receivers' grasp. He delivered three touchdown passes with no interceptions, passing for a career-high 389 yards for a 103.6 passer rating. It was a banner game for Flacco.
Rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith overcame his nerves and lack of experience, breaking out with three touchdown catches in the first quarter for his first three NFL receptions. The former University of Maryland standout finished with five catches for 152 yards, providing a deep threat with Lee Evans sidelined with a left ankle injury. He wasn't the only contributor. Anquan Boldin worked the seams for seven catches for 74 yards while athletic tight end Ed Dickson chipped in five catches for 52 yards.
Running back: A
Ray Rice displayed his all-around skills, bolting for a 53-yard run and gaining 79 yards on only eight carries as he averaged 9.9 yards per rush. He also hauled in five receptions for 83 yards. Bruising fullback Vonta Leach punished linebackers and caught three passes for 11 yards. Ricky Williams rushed for 42 yards, including a 28-yard run.
Offensive line: B
Joe Flacco was only sacked twice and had plenty of time to locate his targets downfield. There were plenty of big holes for Ray Rice to scamper through. Michael Oher was flagged once for holding, and once for illegal use of the hands. He also allowed a sack to Chris Long.
Defensive line: A
All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, the Ravens' $61 million man, scored a touchdown on a 28-yard fumble return. Defensive ends Cory Redding and Pernell McPhee each had a sack. Redding had three quarterback hits and two tackles for losses. He was tough to block all day.
Terrell Suggs harassed Sam Bradford into hurrying his throws, sacking him once and hitting him twice. Ray Lewis led all defenders with 10 tackles and forced the fumble on Haloti Ngata's score. Jameel McClain registered a rare sack.
They provided sound coverage against the Rams' injury-riddled receiving corps. The lone lapse was committed by cornerback Cary Williams, who mistimed his leap on Sam Bradford's 34-yard touchdown to Brandon Gibson. That ruined the shutout. Bradford completed only 16 of 32 throws for 166 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a 62.8 passer rating.
Special teams: C-minus
Billy Cundiff missed a pair of 51-yard field goals, which are normally well within his range. He came back to make three field goals from 21, 31 and 38 yards. Punter Sam Koch averaged 44.5 yards on two punts. Lardarius Webb had a 29-yard punt return. Rookie kick returner LaQuan Williams had a 37-yard kickoff return and averaged 30 yards per return.
-- Aaron Wilson
THREE REASONS FOR THE OUTCOME
ST. LOUIS -- Embarrassed a week ago by the Tennessee Titans, the Baltimore Ravens took out their frustrations by scorching the winless St. Louis Rams during a 37-7 victory Sunday.
Here's what happened at the Edward Jones Dome:
1. Rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith put his struggles behind him, breaking out with three touchdown catches in the first quarter on his first three NFL receptions to stake the Ravens to a commanding 21-0 advantage. Smith had problems catching the football during preseason games and in practice
His confidence seemed to be wavering before this game, but he was riding high afterward. His speed was simply too much for cornerback Justin King to cope with as he was burnt on all three scores. Smith finished the game with five receptions for 152 yards.
2. Quarterback Joe Flacco rebounded strongly from an erratic game last week, passing for a career-high 389 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions on 26 of 47 accuracy for a 103.6 rating. Flacco looked sharp after being intercepted twice in Nashville. The pass protection improved markedly as he was only sacked twice.
3. After being picked apart by Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck last week, the Ravens' defense took a major step forward and forced the Rams to abandon their usually potent no-huddle attack. Quarterback Sam Bradford completed only 16 of 32 passes for one touchdown and one interception for a 62.8 rating. He was sacked five times.
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