OAKLAND, Calif. — Mike Wallace got excited as soon as he saw the script, knowing he’d have an early chance to deliver the big passing play that has been missing too often this season for Baltimore.
Wallace caught a tone-setting 52-yard pass from Joe Flacco on the first play from scrimmage to set up an early touchdown for the Ravens, and Jimmy Smith added a fumble return for a score on the next drive that helped fuel Baltimore’s 30-17 victory over the short-handed Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
“I just knew last night when I saw this play call, if we get this play I knew it would be on me to start the game off,” Wallace said. “It was going to be a snowball effect. I just had thoughts like that last night. Then we came out and caught them on the first play. Wish I would have scored.”
That pass set up tight end Vince Mayle’s 2-yard touchdown run on an end-around and the Ravens (3-2) got going after being held scoreless in losses the past two weeks.
Flacco had struggled to get the ball downfield against Jacksonville and Pittsburgh, averaging less than 4 yards an attempt those games. But the early deep ball to Wallace helped open things up and the two connected later on a 54-yard pass and a 27-yarder, equaling the team’s season total of 20-yard pass plays in the previous four weeks.
“It definitely feels good to let the ball go down the field and let Mike go get one,” Flacco said. “You can see it on his face, when he starts getting involved, how much he gets revved up and how much it helps our offense.”
The Raiders (2-3), playing without injured star quarterback Derek Carr and two key cornerbacks, played from behind all game as Smith returned Jared Cook’s fumble 47 yards for a touchdown that made it 14-0 just 3:50 in.
Backup quarterback E.J. Manuel , making his fourth start in the past three seasons, threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree and led another TD drive that ended in Marshawn Lynch’s 3-yard run . He finished 13 for 26 for 159 yards.
But that wasn’t nearly enough for the Raiders, who have dropped three straight following a 2-0 start, putting a severe dent in their hopes to challenge in the AFC West.
“It’s a big shock to start the season off this way,” running back Jalen Richard said. “I don’t even know what to say. It’s like a bad shock. We just keep getting whooped. It’s just going to come down to when (are) we going to get tired of getting whooped.”
The Ravens had also lost two in a row following a 2-0 start, but reversed that slide thanks to Flacco and the opportunistic defense. Flacco completed 19 of 26 passes for 222 yards.
Key drive: The Coliseum was rocking after Lynch’s TD cut Baltimore’s lead to 24-17 late in the third quarter. The Ravens, who had been held to three-and-outs the first two drives of the second half, responded with a 72-yard drive to a 21-yard field goal by Justin Tucker that gave Baltimore a 10-point lead. Flacco converted a pair of third downs on the drive, completing a 13-yard pass to Breshad Perriman on third-and-3, and a 27-yarder to Wallace on third-and-8.
Questionable decision: The Raiders drove into Baltimore territory on the next drive and faced fourth-and-3 from the Ravens 44 with about nine minutes left. Coach Jack Del Rio opted to punt despite the 10-point deficit, and Marquette King sent it into the end zone for a touchback. Baltimore then drove 64 yards in 6:26 to take a 13-point lead.
“It didn’t go anything like it needed to,” Del Rio said. “The fourth down call with 9 minutes left in the game, was that the difference today? I don’t think so.”
Get back up again: Flacco showed off his improvisational skills in the first quarter when he tripped on a drop back after a shotgun snap. He got up and stumbled before getting off a 6-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin that converted a third down. The Ravens ended up scoring on the drive on a 1-yard run by Javorius Allen that made it 21-3.
Injuries: Ravens RB Terrance West departed on the opening drive with a left calf injury following a 13-yard run. He did not return. … The Raiders lost four players to injuries: Marquel Lee (ankle), FB Jamize Olawale (concussion), LB Corey James (knee) and CB Antonio Hamilton (knee).
Up next: The Ravens host Chicago on Sunday. The Raiders host San Diego on Sunday.