OWINGS MILLS – Dennis Pitta sharply cut across the middle on a slant pattern, establishing position in the end zone in front of strong safety Donte Whitner to provide an easy target for Joe Flacco.
And Flacco delivered a strike to the Baltimore Ravens’ tight end, finding Pitta for an eight-yard score in the fourth quarter that was the game-winning touchdown in a 16-6 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
“I had to cut across the safety’s face and leverage him and give Joe a chance to throw me the ball,” Pitta said. “He put it on my chest perfectly, I shielded the safety and made the catch. What a pivotal play for us in that game, and it helped us gain the momentum and start to pull away in the fourth quarter.”
The clutch play by the former fourth-round draft pick from Brigham Young represented the first touchdown of his NFL career.
“It was fun,” Pitta said. “Hopefully, there’s more to come. What a big play in the game, and it was fun to have it there.”
And it was Pitta who caught a deflected Flacco pass earlier in the drive to convert a 3rd-and-6 situation with an 11-yard catch for a first down.
For the season, Pitta now has 27 receptions for 263 yards and a touchdown to rank fifth on the team in catches.
Starting tight end Ed Dickson has 43 catches for 392 yards and three touchdowns.
“Dennis has just been special,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “When they’re playing man coverage, he got across the safety space. That’s not easy to do. To jam that route back inside, and Joe found him, that was really impressive.”
So were the Fu Manchu mustaches that Flacco and Pitta were sporting as a goofy gag.
It resembled a cross between the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” video and the Village People.
“Just trying to get everybody to do it, trying to get everybody to get on the bandwagon here on our offense,” Flacco said. ”It’s kind of tough convincing everybody to get really ugly. A lot of great teams, they always have their signature thing that they go through a season with, and we’re just trying to create one. I think after playing the way we did, maybe I’m starting to get a couple followers.”
Pitta said the mustaches are here to stay as long as the Ravens keep winning.
“We’ll stick with it as long as we’re winning and let the power of the ‘stache continue,” Pitta said. "What better way to mix it up than having an ugly mustache?”
Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs wasn’t exactly approving of the old-school look.
“He can keep it as long as we win,” Suggs said. “I think the moment we start not being ourselves, that’s got to go. He’s the quarterback, he has to have swag.”
CAUGHT IN THE WEBB: Cornerback Lardarius Webb is having a breakthrough season after struggling in the playoffs last season when he allowed a long pass to Antonio Brown in the Ravens’ AFC divisional playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Webb picked off 49ers quarterback Alex Smith in the end zone, undercutting big wide receiver Braylon Edwards.
Now, he has a career-high four interceptions with five games to play in the regular season.
Free safety Ed Reed ranks second on the team with three interceptions.
“The front seven was working, making our job easy,” Webb said of the Ravens tying a franchise record with nine sacks. “So, hey, if the front seven keeps playing the way they played, then you’ll see more games like this. It’s very easy, because they have to get the ball out right now.
“They can’t let their routes develop, because they are so quick. So, if we can just hold our technique long enough, our guys are going to get there. We just wanted to get some turnovers in the back end – not the front seven – we want some interceptions. And we’re just trying our best to get more than one.”
MATTISON JOINS RAMS: Cut by the Ravens so they could promote rookie linebacker Josh Bynes on Wednesday, offensive lineman Bryan Mattison got a new job Friday after clearing waivers.
He signed with the St. Louis Rams, who placed offensive tackle Jason Smith on injured reserve with a concussion.
The son of former Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Bryan Mattison plays center and guard and played in eight games this season and two last year for Baltimore.
“We thought it was a pretty good move at this time,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo told reporters.
SMITH HONORED: Wide receiver Torrey Smith was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week.
Smith was voted in by fans, beating out Miami Dolphins fullback Charles Clay, Carolina Panthers defensive end Thomas Keiser, Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker and Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller.
Smith caught six passes for 165 yards and a touchdown in the Ravens’ 31-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
He was also named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
NO SACKS ALLOWED: The Ravens’ offensive line gave up no sacks for the first time this season.
They’ve surrendered only two sacks in the past three games, giving Flacco plenty of time to operate.
"I didn’t even know that," six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk said. "They’re a great defense, first of all. We just battled out there. Giving up no sacks speaks as much as guys getting open and Joe getting rid of the ball quickly as much as it does to the protection. We had a chance to stay balanced and ran the ball the whole game and didn’t turn the ball over."
INJURY REPORT: The Ravens reported no new injuries.
However, running back Ray Rice had his hand and thumb taped up after the game.
TIME OFF: The Ravens’ next practice is Monday, so they have some down time before beginning preparations for the Cleveland Browns.
"I’m going to be with my family, give thanks, celebrate Thanksgiving and get as much turkey in my system," Birk said. "If everything goes perfect, I’ll catch a nap on the couch in the afternoon. That’s about as good as it gets."
PRAISE FOR CAMERON: The Ravens were stubborn with the run even though it was tough sledding against the 49ers’ top-ranked run defense.
They ran the football 35 times for 92 yards, and threw 23 times for 161 yards.
It was an effective strategy by oft-criticized offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
“I thought Cam called a winning game plan,” Harbaugh said. “You talk about discipline and sticking to the plan and staying patient when he had to against this team. I think Cam Cameron deserves a lot of credit.”