Ravens' Gamecock connection on a roll

OWINGS MILLS – "Go deep, cut toward the corner of the end zone and I'll throw it up to you. You catch it, or make sure that they don't." No, that isn't a replica of a typical huddle conversation between Baltimore Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright and imposing wide receiver Marcus Robinson. Their improvisational skills and the simplicity of their pet play only makes it seem like there's that sort of communication between the two former University of South Carolina football players.

"We have a definite trust factor between us," said Robinson, a former Pro Bowl alternate with the Chicago Bears. "He knows that I'm going to do everything in my power to catch the football, and I know he's going to put it where only I can catch it." 

Wright has shown a definite affinity toward his Gamecock connection. And why not? He has connected with Robinson for six touchdown passes in the last three games, all wins. Before Wright assumed the controls for injured rookie starter Kyle Boller, Robinson was languishing. He hadn't scored a touchdown. Since Wright's ascension to the starting job one month ago, Robinson has caught 15 passes for 259 yards, including a franchise-record four-touchdown outing in the second half of the Ravens' 44-41 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks. "I just have a lot of confidence that Marcus will come down with the ball," Wright said. "He has a great vertical leap, and he's big and strong enough to muscle the ball away from smaller defensive backs." 

The majority of the scores have come on the fade route. It's essentially a timing pattern where Robinson cuts toward the corner of the end zone, Wright tosses it to a prescribed area and Robinson attempts to outleap smaller defenders for the touchdown. "That's just me throwing to a spot and feeling that something good will happen,: Wright said. More often than not, Robinson's agile 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame creates enough of a mismatch where shorter cornerbacks struggle to compete. 

It worked against the Cincinnati Bengals' Jeff Burris for an 8-yard score in the first half of the Ravens' 31-13 win last Sunday. Another fade pass to Robinson on third down at the Bengals' 9 drew a pass-interference call against Tory James to set up a Jamal Lewis touchdown. "It's not a real high-percentage route, no, but the cost-to-benefit ratio is pretty good if you throw it in the right spot," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. 

As a senior at South Carolina, Robinson caught 21 passes during Wright's sophomore campaign before being drafted in the fourth round by the Bears. In Chicago, Robinson blossomed into an elite threat, catching 84 passes for 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns in 1999, before knee and back surgeries almost derailed his career. Before Wright's promotion, Robinson had caught seven passes for 63 yards and no scores. Often, he dropped the ball or Boller didn't deliver the football accurately. There wasn't much apparent chemistry. "I was always looking for him," Boller said. "I just might not have gotten him the ball as much as I should have." 

The Ravens have scored 119 points in the past three games. With 331 points, Baltimore is on pace to break a team scoring mark of 371 points established during its inaugural season in 1996 under coach Ted Marchibroda. And the combination of Wright-to-Robinson has contributed heavily to the offensive resurgence. "The fact that they have a little history together probably lends itself to it," Billick said. "Clearly, there is probably a comfort zone for Anthony because of that previous relationship." 

ZEUS WANTS TO RETURN: An unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, right offensive tackle Orlando Brown insisted he wants to return to Baltimore. Brown was already financially secure well before a lucrative, undisclosed settlement of his lawsuit against the NFL for the penalty-flag incident that damaged his eye. "I don't want to be the highest-paid tackle in the game, or anything like that," Brown said. "I just want what's fair, and I want to be here close to my kids. "My agent told me some teams will offer me a lot of money. I've got to look at that, but I left millions on the table to be here. I think we'll be able to do business." 

PLAYOFF OUTLOOK: If the season ended today, Baltimore would claim the AFC North for its first division title. As the fourth-seeded division leader behind New England, Kansas City and Indianapolis, the Ravens would host the Tennessee Titans, the top wild-card team. Before realignment sent the Titans to the newly-formed AFC South, they were an AFC Central rival that Baltimore vanquished in the playoffs on its way to a Super Bowl title. 

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.


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