Ravens' win, somehow, leaves us looking for silver lining

November 21, 2010|Mike Preston

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — — The Ravens blew out the Carolina Panthers Sunday. Yippee. Awesome. Go ahead, make those Super Bowl reservations in Dallas.

But that wasn't an impressive performance by the Ravens. Buried underneath the 37-13 win was a team that had problems on offense and defense, ones that keep resurfacing enough to make you wonder if this team can really win a championship.

Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Dawan Landry, courtesy of Ed Reed, returned interceptions for touchdowns in the last five minutes, but until then the Ravens were in a tussle with one of the worst teams in the NFL. And if Carolina quarterback Brian St. Pierre had not turned into the dud we all thought he would be in the closing minutes, the outcome might have been different.

The Ravens have enough talent on this team that they should be beating poor teams convincingly. Were there any good things to come out of the game?

Basically, there was one. The Ravens finally got something out of their return game. Rookie David Reed returned three kickoffs for 135 yards, including a long of 84. Second-year cornerback Lardarius Webb wasn't as successful on punt returns, but he did return five for 41 yards. He looked a lot more comfortable than in previous weeks and appears close to breaking one.

Without a strong return game, the Ravens will struggle late in the year and into the postseason. The return game finally complemented the kicking game as Billy Cundiff converted on three field goals, and punter Sam Koch delivered the big 60 yarder early in the fourth quarter.

And now, on to a disturbing issue. …

Ravens' defensive disappointments

Carolina running back Mike Goodson rushed 22 times for 120 yards, including one of 45 yards. Ravens coach John Harbaugh tried to downplay the yardage, complementing Goodson, who is a good back, and the Panthers blocking scheme.

But don't buy into the scheme stuff. The Ravens just got whipped at the line of scrimmage, especially on the right side where Panthers right tackle Garry Williams took turns bouncing anybody the Ravens played in front of him.

The biggest disappointment was rookie defensive tackle Terrence Cody, the team's second-round pick out of Alabama. When he wasn't getting smacked backward, he was getting knocked off his feet as the Panthers chopped his legs, and Cody had no clue on how to defend himself.

The next biggest disappointment was Lewis. He got twisted and turned and hasn't played a good game in the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately for the Ravens, when Lewis doesn't perform well, none of the other linebackers step except for Terrell Suggs.

The absence of Bart Scott still looms large within this franchise.

Come on down, Cary

The Ravens gave up an 88-yard touchdown reception to David Gettis early in the fourth quarter as cornerback Josh Wilson got caught looking in the backfield, and Gettis blew by him for the big play.

It was 10 days ago that Wilson got beat by Roddy White for the game winning touchdown in Atlanta. I would recommend that the Ravens play Fabian Washington in place of Wilson, but we already tried that. Next up: Cary Williams.

'Aint't happening'

One of the networks reported that quarterback Joe Flacco was calling his own plays against the Panthers. When asked if that was the case, Flacco was quick to point out that didn't happen, and it probably wasn't going to change in the near future.

"Nope, not true," said Flacco. "That ain't happening. I can change out of some plays, but I definitely didn't call my own plays."

The Ravens, though, did go more vertical Sunday, and even when Flacco didn't throw the ball, those deep routes opened up some things for later in the game. Flacco, though, still needs to learn to throw the deep ball sooner, and his pocket awareness has to become better.

Hold it

There isn't a secondary in the league that holds more than the Panthers. Carolina cornerbacks Chris Gamble, Captain Munnerlyn and Richard Marshall spent the entire game grabbing the jerseys of receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Derrick Mason.

There were times when Houshmandzadeh was so tangled up that he looked as if he were square dancing, but he still managed to catch several passes, including one for a 56-yard touchdown on the Ravens' first series.

Oh, what site

The game had the flavor of a Ravens intra-squad scrimmage.

Ravens fans flooded Bank of America Stadium, and it appeared they outnumbered the Panthers fans. It was the first time since the Ravens moved to Baltimore that the Ravens got a louder ovation for pregame introductions than the home team.

It was like the New York Yankees coming to Baltimore and the Yankees fans taking over Orioles Park.

When the national anthem was sung, the traditional "Oh" shouted out by Baltimoreans echoed loudly throughout the stadium. It made you feel kind of bad for the Panthers, but not Charlotte.

That city, along with Jacksonville, beat Baltimore in the expansion race. If things don't turn around in Charlotte, this city might be building a museum right where the stadium is located.

'We can get better'

One more thing before you purchase those Super Bowl tickets: The Ravens had four turnovers and lost two fumbles. They weren't dynamic in the red zone either. Again.

"That's always a key for us and something that we need to get better at," said Ravens tight end Todd Heap. "We need to focus on it next week. It's something that you always need to focus on. It was unfortunate that we lost a couple. We had some momentum a few times and they got away from us. We can get better at that."

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