TD party: Joe Flacco, Ravens 'showing the world' their new targets

BALTIMORE -- What everyone saw in the Baltimore Ravens' season-opening 47-3 win over the Buffalo Bills is exactly what the wide receivers witnessed three months ago.

Joe Flacco's timing, confidence and rapport with all of his new targets -- Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead IV -- happened almost immediately at the Ravens' spring minicamp.

"It's really just showing the world," Crabtree said.

What Flacco and his new receivers showed on Sunday was a touchdown party. Through a driving rain, Flacco clicked with each one in the end zone in their first game together.

How significant is that? Flacco threw three or more touchdowns to his wide receivers in a single game for only the fifth time in his 11-year career and for the first time since October 2014.

"It's definitely good for us to go out there as a team and as an offense, speaking as the quarterback, to have the kind of game we did for sure," Flacco said. "If we didn't score 40 points and we scored 25, and we still won, it's the same outcome, but there's something to be said about going out there and playing the way we did today. Just how everybody feels or how we feel as players, it can take you to another level."

The first glimpse of how explosive this offense can be occurred on the opening drive. Faced with a second-and-26, Flacco rolled to his right and threw across the field to Brown for a 29-yard completion. Six plays later, running back Alex Collins ran for a touchdown.

After that, the Ravens' next three trips to the end zone came from Flacco hitting one of his free-agent additions.

Flacco's first touchdown pass was a 7-yarder to Brown, but it was set up by Crabtree, who ran an inside route that drew the attention of a safety. That created a wide-open throwing window to Brown in the back of the end zone.

"We all work together," Crabtree said. "Whoever's got the clearcut, whoever's got the double-team, we have to make sure it happens. We're unselfish. Right now, we're just having fun."

Right before halftime, Flacco placed a fine touch pass to Crabtree in the back of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. With cornerback Phillip Gaines draped on him, Crabtree was able to come down with his right foot in bounds and then dragged his left toe for the score.

Crabtree's prowess in the red zone was a big reason why the Ravens signed him this offseason.

"Crabtree has a special way of running routes and getting in position and making big catches," Flacco said.

Flacco's final touchdown was supposed to go to tight end Nick Boyle, but Snead negated the score with an offensive pass interference penalty. On the next play, Snead redeemed himself by catching a 13-yard pass over the middle and diving into the end zone.

"I was joking with Willie, I said he knew the second play call," Flacco said. "After he committed that OPI, he knew he was going to get the ball, and that’s why he just set it up on purpose."

There were few laughs for Flacco and his receivers last year. In 2017, his wide receiver group -- Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Campanaro and Breshad Perriman -- totaled the third-fewest receiving yards, with 1,734.

On Sunday, Flacco's connection with his receivers led to one of his best days in the NFL. Flacco was 25-of-34 (73.5 percent) passing for 236 yards. His 121.7 passer rating was the seventh highest of his career.

It's easy to downplay Baltimore's success because the Ravens were playing the Bills. But Buffalo allowed the second-fewest touchdown passes in the league last season.

By the time the Ravens pulled a majority of their starters in the middle of the third quarter, Crabtree (three catches for 38 yards), Brown (three for 44) and Snead (four for 49) were feeling they had shown only a glimpse of their potential together.

"It was an awesome feeling," Snead said. "If it wasn't raining, I can only imagine what we could have done."