The Carolina Panthers failed to score a single offensive touchdown yet managed to post 34 points thanks to an opportunistic defense and a punt return unit that combined to reach the end zone four times.
Some might say that the 34-27 final score is not indicative of how bad the Panthers manhandled the Ravens. This may be a contrarian opinion but put me on the flip side of that coin.
This game, like most preseason games, was a mirage. What you saw, you didn’t get and judging from the outcry of Ravens fans whose expectation levels are artificially bloated (that comes with the defending champion label), the panic button is wearing out.
Clearly the Ravens made mistakes – mistakes that cost them the game. But which of those mistakes aren’t correctible?
The first team offense when Marshal Yanda was on the field fired on all cylinders. Take out Yanda and add in a Tandon Doss miscue and a bad decision by Joe Flacco, and suddenly you have arguably a 21 point swing.
The first team defense was impressive, particularly the front seven who dominated the line of scrimmage. They held the Panthers offense to 67 net yards in the first half with only 5 first downs, 2 sacks and several more QB pressures.
Don’t let your eyes be deceived by the 28 points courtesy of miscues.
THE GOOD: The first team offensive line dominated the Panthers on a surgically precise 9 play, 69 yard, 4:18 opening drive that included 5 completed passes and 4 successful runs culminating in a 1-yard waltz into the end zone by Ray Rice…Marshal Yanda’s return was nice to see particularly since it was anything but a token punching of the time clock. Welcome back Marshal. You’ve been missed…Ravens RB’s combined for 169 yards rushing…Third down efficiency was a very respectable 54% (7 for 13)…Brandon Stokley (3 catches, 43 yards), welcome home!…Tyrod Taylor’s escapability is spectacular…Justin Tucker’s 4 touchbacks helped a special teams unit that apparently needed it.
The Ravens defensive front was outstanding. They will be fun to watch once they can really wear down an offensive line with their deep rotations by the second half of games…Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love the all out hustle of John Simon who is like a younger, crazier version of Jarret Johnson…Great to see Lardarius Webb back gaining confidence…Brandon Williams proved again that a man that big can be a great athlete, easily sacking the elusive Cam Newton…Dean Pees defensive squad held the Panthers to 173 net yards and just 14 first downs – 4 by penalty.
THE BAD: Joe Flacco is locking in on his receivers and holding on to the ball too long, which clearly can be explained away by a lack of chemistry, rapport and trust with his receivers. That takes time. The Ravens signal caller will be mortified when he watches the tape of the pass intercepted by Luke Kuechly… Tyrod Taylor can make bad choices sitting in the pocket, cheated in part by his sight lines (or lack thereof). The pick 6 was a perfect example…Jah Reid was once considered a prospect with a ton of upside. Suddenly he’s looking like a suspect who could be on the outside looking in if not for his third round draft status…Dallas Clark had an inauspicious start to his career as a Raven with a drop on one target and he alligator-armed another.
Matt Elam has looked lost since the opener in Tampa. James Ihedigbo is a nice situational player but a first round pick needs to take that strong safety job and so far Elam isn’t…
THE UGLY: Tandon Doss’ failure to make the right pre-snap read, a fairly elementary one for a third year NFL player, cost the Ravens 6 points and arguably 12 since they were driving when he crossed up Joe Flacco…Kelechi Osemele was beaten soundly by the Panthers 2013 first-round pick Star Lotulelei. The Panthers’ DT had four tackles, 3 for losses, a sack and a QB hurry. KO looked lost and sluggish and hardly like the player we’ve seen in the past…Three turnovers led to 21 points … The punt cover team was rag-tag. Sam Koch averaged 52 yards on 2 punts yet his net average was 15 yards…
The officiating is atrocious and all of these powder puff rules championed by Roger Goodell to help him fend off lawsuits by retired players is ruining the game. Twenty-one penalties added up to 223 yards and if it continues, the NFL will lose a portion of what it treasures most – advertising dollars tied directly to TV ratings. The game has assumed risks and what happened to many retired players, while tragic can’t be undone by today’s rules.
THOMPSON CREEK PLAYER OF THE GAME: You have to give credit to an unheralded player who steps up and seizes an opportunity to prove that despite his undrafted status, he can play with the big boys if given a chance. His 4 catches for 59 yards including a 24-yard scoring strike from Joe Flacco and his willingness to support the run game with his blocking, earns Marlon Brown best player status for his efforts in last night’s contest.