ST. LOUIS (AP) — Joe Flacco aired it out, surprising the St. Louis Rams. Then came the shocks when a rookie with no career receptions ran past the secondary — again and again and again.
Torrey Smith’s first three catches were for touchdowns totaling 133 yards that ignited the Baltimore Ravens’ franchise record-setting day on offense in a 37-7 rout Sunday.
“That’s great when you have young guys who can go out there and just play the game,” Flacco said. “Who knows what he was thinking? Who knows how confident he was coming into the game?
“I’m pretty sure he’s very confident coming out of this game and we have to just keep this going.”
The Ravens (2-1) rebounded smartly from a loss at Tennessee and recaptured momentum from their impressive opening victory over AFC North rival Pittsburgh. They finished with 553 total yards, best for the franchise since relocating from Cleveland in 1996, and the 406-yard first half also was a record.
“It was execution, honestly,” running back Ray Rice said. “Our young guys stepped up and made a few plays and we took it from there.”
Smith, a second-round pick who had 12 touchdown receptions last year at Maryland, got his first career start ahead of injured Lee Evans. Touchdown catches of 74, 41 and 18 yards capped three of the Ravens’ first four possessions, and the final totals for his breakout game were five catches for 152 yards.
Smith said he dropped only one pass in practice last week and carried that production into game day.
“I can stretch the field,” Smith said. “Lee’s proven, I’m not. For me to have a game like this, I think it definitely helps us out in the games going forward.”
The defense stepped up, too, holding the Rams (0-3) to 244 total yards and sacking Sam Bradford five times. While the Ravens were building a 27-0 first-half lead, the Rams’ seven possessions ended with six punts and an interception.
“I think they did a good job protecting him,” said linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had a sack and two tackles for loss. “When he held the ball long is when we were actually able to get after him.
“You can’t be perfect, you know.”
The Rams were far from it. Nothing worked for a franchise expected to contend in the NFC West. Instead, they looked more like the 2009 team that began the year 0-7 and finished 1-15 in coach Steve Spagnuolo’s first season.
Players weren’t surprised they were booed as they trotted off at halftime.
“Our hard work, especially in training camp, is not carrying over,” running back Steven Jackson said. “All we can do is look at ourselves in the mirror.
“You see the grind and what we’re putting in, but it’s not happening for us on Sunday.”
St. Louis finally got on the scoreboard with Brandon Gibson’s 34-yard catch late in the third quarter. Haloti Ngata wrapped up a thorough whipping with a 28-yard fumble return after Ray Lewis stripped Bradford on a sack late in the fourth quarter.
With the Edward Jones Dome virtually empty by the fourth quarter, the setback left Spagnuolo grasping for positives.
“I’m not going to get mad at them, I get mad for them,” the coach said. “At halftime I asked them to just go out there and fight and I thought we did that.
“That’s all a head coach can ask at that particular point.”
Flacco was 27 for 48 for a career-high 389 yards, 192 more than last week. The Rams had anticipated a more conservative, pound-it-out approach.
Jackson started for St. Louis, returning from a leg injury that sidelined him for the Monday night loss against the New York Giants, but was no factor with just 23 yards on four carries.
Spagnuolo said the plan was to ease Jackson back into action, and keep him healthy for this week against the Washington Redskins.
Backup running back Cadillac Williams had a strong game with 75 yards on 18 carries.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)