Ravens Outclassed by Panthers
By Paul Mittermeier
There was plenty of blame to go around the Ravens locker room after their 23-21 loss to Carolina on Sunday.
The Ravens' defense could point the finger at the offense for not converting any of Carolina's three turnovers into points, and the Ravens' offense could point the finger at the defense for its fourth-quarter collapse. But to find the real story, point to Carolina.
The Panthers deserve credit for coming in and playing championship-caliber football. The Panthers field the best wide receiver in the NFL, Steve Smith, and Jake Delhomme, one of the best quarterbacks playing the game today.
Chris McAlister has three interceptions this season.
Every time Baltimore scored, Carolina had an answer. In the second quarter QB Kyle Boller hit Mark Clayton off a deflection to give the Ravens a 7-3 lead. Eight plays later, Delhomme found Drew Carter for a 42-yard touchdown to give the lead back to Carolina. Chris
McAlister intercepted Delhomme on Carolina's first possession of the third quarter. Seven plays later, the Panthers defense returned the favor, intercepting Boller to kill a promising Ravens drive.
With five minutes to go, the game was well in hand with the Panthers holding a nine-point lead. Once again it seemed the football gods were smiling on the Ravens. Boller and Clayton 'connected' again, this time off a deflection by Mike Minter, and 62 yards later the Ravens were back in the game.
The fans remaining in M&T Bank Stadium were rocking as the Ravens defense took the field. But, it was another opportunity for the Panthers to show their championship character. On the very next play from scrimmage Delhomme found Steve Smith for a 72-yard touchdown.
It was clear that a lucky team would not defeat a consistent team on this Sunday.
The Ravens made a huge mistake in the last two minutes. There was a miscommunication on the sideline and the Ravens let the clock run for 26 seconds after a Carolina second-down play.
Jake Delhomme had a career day in passing, going 24-for- 9 for 65 yards and two touchdowns.
The biggest mistake, though, was then calling the timeout. If the Ravens had let the clock continue to run, they would still have had all three timeouts. Even if the Panthers made the first down on the next play, the Ravens still could have stopped the clock three more times and possibly gotten the ball back.
Delhomme Tosses a Gem
Boller did an admirable job relieving Steve McNair on Sunday. If Boller wants to take the next step in his progression as an NFL quarterback, he should study the tape of Delhomme's spectacular performance.
Delhomme set the tone early by converting three of the first four third-downs for the Panthers, one week after Carolina went 0-11 on third downs against the Cleveland Browns. Delhomme made mistakes, but he also made big plays, using his mobility to keep plays alive and hurt the Ravens defense.
Delhomme's fourth-quarter performance was magnificent. The Panthers started the final quarter backed up on their own 6-yard line. On second-and-10 Delhomme bought time and hit Smith for 33 yards. Three plays later, he avoided the rush, slid to the outside and hit Smith again, this time for 18 yards and a first down. That enabled Carolina to go up by two scores on a John Kasay field goal. Then there was the icing on the cake: the 72-yard pass to Smith that broke the Ravens' back.
Give Boller and the Baltimore offense credit for battling back. After Todd Heap scored a touchdown with less than three minutes left in the game, the Ravens were again within two points, but Delhomme calmly finished the deal.
On a key third-and-one, Delhomme completed one of his shortest passes of the day. When the ball eluded the outstretched arms of LB Bart Scott and nestled into the arms of Carter, the Carolina QB put the final stroke on his masterpiece and sent the Ravens out of M&T Bank Stadium with their first loss in seven home games.
Issue 1.26: October 19, 2006