Street Talk 5 KEYS TO THE GAME

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1. In a dramatic and perplexing change, it was the Baltimore Ravens’ second-ranked defense that unraveled in a 23-21 defeat to the Carolina Panthers. Usually, the offense is the culprit. In allowing a season-high 414 yards of total offense, the Ravens (4-2) were beaten for two deep touchdown passes.
First, Drew Carter blew by cornerback Samari Rolle for a 42-yard touchdown in the first half. On an apparent miscommunication by the secondary in the final minutes, the Panthers sealed the game with a 72-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Steve Smith. Rolle initially had coverage on the All-Pro wideout, but released him to safety Ed Reed. Reed was nowhere to be found, though, after biting on Delhomme’s fake to Keyshawn Johnson.
The play was designed for Johnson to run a fly pattern, but cornerback Chris McAlister jammed him and Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme (career-high 365 yards) saw Smith waving his hand over his helmet, wide open downfield. Smith registered eight receptions for 189 yards. 
2. Quarterback Steve McNair was knocked out in the first quarter with a medium concussion, neck sprain and an abrasion on his neck. X-rays and MRI exams were ruled negative. Kyle Boller was erratic at times, but had some good fortune in his debut this season as he threw three touchdown passes. However, two of his scores came off tipped passes. He passed for 226 yards on 17 of 31 accuracy with one interception for a 97.0 passer rating. He also demonstrated excellent mobility and threw a decent fade pass for a touchdown to tight end Todd Heap.
3. Carolina entered the game as one of the worst in the league in third-down conversions with an 11-for-59 clip (18.6 percent). Against the Ravens, they managed to convert 7 of 15 third downs to keep drives going with a 47-percent success rate. 
4. Running back Jamal Lewis, who had averaged only 2.2 yards per carry in the previous two games, averaged 4.6 on nine carries that netted him 41 yards. He didn’t carry the ball again after a third quarter where he ripped off a 17-yard run followed by another for a loss of one. Afterward, he voiced his displeasure for the first time this year and said the coaches "pumped the brakes" on the running game. Meanwhile, wide receiver Derrick Mason didn’t have a single catch for the first time this season.
5. Two-time All-Pro Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers was a disruptive force, posting two sacks, a forced fumble and a team-high eight tackles.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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