Despite the losing score, the Ravens’ third preseason game against the Carolina Panthers was a step in the right direction for the team, as both the offense and defense looked sharper than they did a week ago against the Falcons. Carolina’s four touchdowns came on returns on defense and special teams, and the Panthers only managed to put up six points on the Ravens’ defense. After the game Coach Harbaugh said, “Very pleased about really most everything about this game. I liked the way we played, I liked how we played; I just didn’t like the four returns for touchdowns.”
Even though the game was by no means perfect, fans should feel more confident about the season opener in Denver since the starters played well in the NFL’s version of a dress rehearsal.
The first string defense looked dominant and effectively shut down the Carolina offense. In almost three quarters of play, Carolina only managed to rack up 68 yards of total offense and 3 points. It was refreshing to see cornerback Lardarius Webb back out on the field after recovering from a torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament). Once again, linebacker Daryl Smith led the charge on defense, making plays all over the field and finishing the night with 3 tackles and a sack. “This game we really wanted to correct some issues we had last week just as far as playing fundamental football and with proper technique,” said Smith after the game. “We came out, and for the most part I think we did that.” In addition to Smith, the Ravens’ linebackers all played well. Suggs and Dumervil had constant pressure on Cam Newton and forced several bad throws. Josh Bynes and rookie Arthur Brown were solid in both man and zone coverage. Even with all the talented linebackers currently on the roster, the best unit on the team is the defensive line. Chris Canty, Haloti Ngata, Marcus Spears, Art Jones, and Brandon Williams form one of the most formidable defensive lines in the NFL, and arguably have the most depth at the position. Against the Panthers, they controlled the line of scrimmage and stopped the run, even making a stop in the backfield on third and one. If the defense continues to gel, barring injuries, the sky is the limit for this unit.
The first string offense had a great first series and overall they were able to effectively move the ball against a talented Panther’s defense. Ray Rice showed what he can do with a good offensive line in front of him and had 62 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Joe Flacco consistently moved the chains and went 18/24 for 169 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, although one interception can be blamed almost entirely on receiver Tandon Doss. Unfortunately, as soon as Pro Bowl guard Marshall Yanda left the game the offensive line fell apart, allowing too much pressure on Flacco and not opening up many running lanes. Yanda’s health this season will go a long way in determining whether this offense finishes in the top ten or not.
The star of the night on offense was the undrafted rookie wide receiver out of Georgia, Marlon Brown. He had four receptions for 59 yards and a highlight reel touchdown grab, all against the Panthers’ starting defense. He showed soft hands and good route running and at 6’2” he has the height to be a dangerous red zone target. Considering the lack of depth that the Ravens have at the wide receiver position, if Brown continues to shine, he could cement his spot as the number 2 receiver, and start opposite Torrey Smith against Denver.