On a cold,wet afternoon that turned fingertips numb,receiver Mark Clayton had the touch.
Clayton put a little sizzle into Baltimore's evolving offense Sunday,throwing a touchdown pass and making a spectacular one-handed catch for another during a 34-3 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that kept the Ravens a game behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North.
"I just think it's exciting the way we're playing football right now," linebacker Ray Lewis said.
Now that their offense is coming around,the Ravens (8-4) have it all going for them.
Baltimore has won six of its past seven games with its renowned defense and an offense coming into its own behind rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. Each week,the Ravens give him a little more of the playbook.
Against the Bengals (1-10-1),they added a page for Clayton,a former first-round draft pick who emerged as a dual threat on a cold,rainy afternoon. In the third quarter,Clayton lined up to the left,took a handoff from Flacco and headed for the right sideline,selling the play as a reverse.
Cornerback Leon Hall fell for it,letting Derrick Mason run free down the right sideline. Clayton's 32-yard touchdown pass - the first since high school - was as easy as they come.
"I was just playing outside defense," Hall said. "It was man-to-man. He was my guy to cover."
The Ravens had practiced the play a few of times,but never had the courage to put it in a game plan.
"We've known he could do it," coach John Harbaugh said. "That's the best one he's thrown yet. He'll be lobbying for more of those."
Clayton's next catch was as tough as it gets. He ran past the stumbling Hall,stretched out his right hand and grabbed Flacco's pass at the 30-yard line,then completed the 70-yard play that set the Bengals on course for their most lopsided loss since 2000.
"I was just running," said Clayton,who finished with five catches for 164 yards. "I looked back and the ball was in the air. I just kind of stuck my hand out in the air."