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Pitta Emerges in Boldin’s Absence

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(Credits: John Grieshop/Getty Images)

With No. 1 wide receiver Anquan Boldin out for the regular-season finale at Cincinnati, the Ravens were looking for someone to step up and fill the void.

In stepped second-year tight end Dennis Pitta.

The 26-year-old lined up all over the field against the Bengals and had six catches for a career-high 62 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown, in Baltimore’s 24-16 victory.

In his rookie season, Pitta had just one reception for one yard. The Ravens’ offensive game plan for week 17 shows the leaps and bounds Pitta has made in the team’s offense.

The 6-foot-4, 245 pound, tight end, lined up twice as a wide receiver in two-wide sets in the first quarter and did it several other times throughout the course of the game. Pitta optioned into the backfield a number of times as well, and slipped out to catch passes and helped block in the running game.

It helped give the Ravens another sure-handed, physical receiver–similar to what Boldin provides for this team when healthy.

On Sunday, Pitta was targeted seven times, which was tied with receiver Torrey Smith for most targets. Wide receiver Lee Evans, who started a second straight week in the place of Boldin, was targeted by one deep pass that fell off his fingertips.

Boldin (knee) is expected to be ready for Baltimore’s first playoff game, so the Ravens likely won’t use Pitta in much of the same fashion as this past week, but there’s always the possibility they could.

Pitta ignited the Ravens’ second scoring driving with a career-long, 39-yard pitch and catch from quarterback Joe Flacco. Facing a third-and-one from their own 31-yard line, Flacco faked the run and hit a wide open Pitta in the middle of the field.

The play call and fake got him open, but Pitta finished the play by fighting for an extra 15 yards after first being hit by a Bengals defender. The Ravens would end the drive in the form of a Billy Cundiff field goal.

Pitta’s biggest contribution was on the touchdown with 19 ticks remaining in the first half. He created a mismatch for the Bengals by lining up as a wideout in the slot. Pitta had no trouble beating the 6-foot, 200 pound, Nate Clements, as Flacco lofted the pass over Clements head and Pitta made a nice adjustment and tremendous job to come down in bounds with possession of the ball, giving Baltimore a 14-point halftime advantage.

Pitta finished the regular season on a high note. For the season, he caught 40 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns, which are all career-bests for the former fourth-round draft choice.