The Baltimore Ravens watched key offensive playmakers drop like flies in the first half of Thursday's 27-22 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews (shoulder) and No. 1 wide receiver Rashod Bateman (foot) were sidelined in the second half as the Ravens trailed 10-3 at halftime.
Up to the plate stepped rookie tight end Isaiah Likely.
The rookie shined in the second half, finishing with six catches for 77 yards and his first career touchdown, which gave the Ravens their first lead of the night.
"It felt great," Likely said of his first TD, via the official transcript. "I mean, always giving thanks to God and just really just living in the moment. My motto is just being where your feet are and not living dwelling on the past, not living too far in the future and just being where your feet are and playing every play like it's your last."
With his top two targets on the sideline, Lamar Jackson leaned on Likely in the second half, trusting the rookie to make plays in traffic. Likely's 77 receiving yards versus Tampa were the most by a rookie tight end in a prime-time game since his teammate Andrews in Week 16, 2018 (83 versus the Chargers). He also recovered the onside kick to ice the contest.
Likely owns good hands and the ability to create space on routes. Thursday night was the culmination of hype for Likely that began during training camp and preseason action.
"What you've seen from him, I've been seeing it," Jackson said of the rookie. "I've been talking about it since camp, OTAs. He showed up and showed out. He got his first touchdown, prime-time game. Hats off to him; I'm proud of him, I'm happy for him."
Likely said he knew he needed to step up without Andrews and Bateman.
"It was really just a confidence thing," he said. "It was them looking, Rashod and Mark just looking the offense in the eyes and telling [us], 'Y'all got this. Whether we're there or not, y'all got this.' Just having us be the offense we are."
Likely wasn't the only player who stepped up. Demarcus Robinson netted six catches for 64 yards, including a big third-down catch and run, and Devin Duvernay added four catches for 31 yards and two carries for 33 yards with a touchdown.
"Of course, to see Isaiah step up, we saw it in training camp and preseason games, and Duv has been doing it all year," coach John Harbaugh said of the secondary receivers. "D-Rob had a heck of a game; he came out and made some big plays for us getting up the sideline. Duv did it, not just in the passing game, but the run game as well. I thought both running backs did a great job; all three running backs did a great job. It was a team effort; it was an all-around team effort."
Harbaugh noted after the game that the injuries to Andrews and Bateman aren't expected to be serious, which is great news for a Ravens team that has an extended break before facing New Orleans in Week 9 on Monday night, then a bye in Week 10.
Even when Andrews and Bateman return, Likely proved Thursday he should still be a major factor for Baltimore's offense as the Ravens gear up for a run at the AFC North title.