BALTIMORE – Ravens receiver Kamar Aiken topped the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career on Sunday against Kansas City, and his emergence continues to be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lost season for the Ravens.
Aiken figured to be a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver this year for the Ravens, but he has become the team’s No. 1 option with Steve Smith (torn Achilles) out for the year and first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman sidelined all year by a knee injury.
Aiken had eight catches for 128 yards – both career highs – and a touchdown in the Ravens’ 34-14 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday. His touchdown came on a 48-yard Hail Mary at the end of the first half when he grabbed the ball at the 5-yard line and avoided tacklers to reach the end zone.
“I was just gauging where they were and where the ball was, and I noticed it was going to come up a little short,” Aiken said. “Their DBs were still backpedaling, so I said it was my play to make.”
Aiken, who was targeted a game-high 12 times, also had a couple of other contested catches, including a tough 30-yarder along the sideline that set up the Ravens first touchdown.
“When the ball’s thrown his way, he’s catching it and taking it out of the air and making plays,” quarterback Jimmy Clausen said.
Guard Marshal Yanda said of Aiken: “He is just fighting his tail off every single play. No matter if we are down or up or we are 14-0 or 0-14, you’re going to get consistent play from him.”
Aiken, who bounced around on four practice squads in his first three years in the league before he ever caught a pass, now has an outside chance to record a 1,000-yard season. With two games left, Aiken has 802 receiving yards, and leads the team in catches (62), receiving yards and touchdown catches (5).
He has caught at least five passes in seven straight games, one shy of the longest such streak in team history (Derrick Mason, 2007).
Still, he said all the personal accolades ring somewhat hollow in a 4-10 season.
“I’d rather win the game,” he said. “I’d rather have 10 yards and have a W than have 100-some yards with a loss.”
With word surfacing that Steve Smith might return next season after previously announcing his retirement, with Perriman expected to be 100 percent, and with some fringe players in danger of losing their jobs, the Ravens receiver corps might look decidedly different next season. But Aiken has made a strong case for a significant role.
“I’m very confident in myself and my abilities,” Aiken said. “Jimmy (Clausen) gave me a lot of chances today to make plays and it just worked out in my favor today. I’ve been putting in the work, week in and week, since offseason, throughout the season. It’s not going to stop.”