Monday, November 22, 2010

Ravens eventually blowout Panthers

Ray Rice celebrates a touchdown in the Ravens 37-13 win over the Panthers.

The Ravens improved to 7-3 for the second time in team history yesterday with a "closer than the scoreboard indicates" 37-13 win over the 1-9 Carolina Panthers.

It was closer than expected due to some Raven turnovers and a lackluster offensive performance that allowed the Panthers to get back into the game, 20-13 early in the 4th quarter. But two interceptions returned for TD's within 11 seconds made the score 37-13.

The blowout was eventually realized.

It was the kind of game that drives critical Ravens fans nuts. The Panthers, who are as banged up as they are terrible, started former stay at home dad and practice squad extraordinaire, Brian St. Pierre, as well as 3rd string running back, Mike Goodson. Goodson rushed for 120 yards and St. Pierre connected with David Gettis for an 88-yard TD pass that put the Panthers back in the game.

So apparently the Panthers didn't get the memo that they were supposed to lie down while the Ravens dismantled them. Maybe the Ravens should rethink their mail provider -- the Browns and Bills didn't get that memo either.

On offense, the Ravens had trouble holding onto the ball, which killed drives that could have made the game a blowout much earlier than the 4th quarter. The Ravens scored on their first drive, with Joe Flacco connecting with TJ Houshmandzadeh. They scored again on a Ray Rice TD in the second quarter, but came out limp after halftime. And fumbles by Flacco and Anquan Boldin didn't help either.

The one positive on offense was Flacco, who completed 72% of his passes and threw for 301 yards and no interceptions. He also moved well in and around the pocket, avoiding sacks and making things happen. It was quietly one of the better passing games of his career.

The defense, again, showed that they are no longer a force to be reckoned with. Goodson, who shredded the Ravens in preseason, did the same yesterday. And even though it was only one play, the 88-yard touchdown on Josh Wilson proved once again that the Ravens are susceptible to allowing big plays.

However, things look better on special teams, with David Reed being named the new kick returner. He had a great game yesterday, returning 3 kicks for a total of 135 yards, including an 85 yard return. And Billy Cundiff booted a 49-yard field goal that would have been good from 60 yards. He also kicked 2 more field goals and continually landed his kickoffs in the endzone.

The defense redeemed themselves in the 4th quarter, putting the game away after the Panthers had pulled within one score. Ed Reed picked off St. Pierre and lateraled the ball to Dawan Landry who took it in for the score. And only 11 seconds later, Ray Lewis showed us again that he still has plenty left in the tank, returning an interception for a touchdown.

So in the end, the game was like the heroine in a horror movie stabbing the killer only once and then dropping the knife right next to the killer's hand instead of taking that knife and cutting the killer up into chum. The game should have never been close to begin with, but the end result was the same.

What's next? The surprisingly 7-3 Tamp Bay Buccaneers travel to Baltimore this weekend for a 4 p.m. game. We'll see what they're made of, and we'll continue to see what the Ravens are made of as well.

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