The Baltimore Ravens were exposed on Sunday as unprepared and played like pretenders rather than contenders. While the Carolina Panthers consistently found success on all sides of the ball, the Ravens found very little. The Ravens started the game out well but tripped on themselves from the first to fourth quarters. In this game, Baltimore failed to prove themselves as one of the NFL’s best teams. Instead, the Ravens earned themselves the rank of mediocrity, an all too familiar tag for the once elite franchise.
The Ravens started the day with a long offensive drive, capped off with an Alex Collins touchdown run. While the unit’s high expectations were met on the opening drive, Baltimore would not return to the end zone until the late third quarter. The Ravens offense imploded against the Panthers. The offense started to crumble first with failures in the run game. Alex Collins’ fumble in Baltimore’s own territory killed any momentum the Ravens had, while simultaneously giving the Panthers an excellent opportunity to score. The Ravens then followed up this mistake with new ones. Receivers consistently dropped passes from Flacco, who grew more and more desperate with every play.
As the game started slipping away, Flacco took it into his own hands to prevent the Ravens from continually stalling out on offense. When he should have thrown the ball away, as he was being chased out of bounds, Flacco tried to force a pass to no one in particular. The pass was easily intercepted. While many may point to this interception and claim Flacco killed the drive, it is important to note how the Ravens ended up in the situation. Willie Snead was called for two offensive pass interference penalties on the drive, and the Ravens likely would have driven into the red zone if Snead was not called. Both penalties were made on shaky grounds, but he was penalized nonetheless. Flacco grew even more desperate later in the game and tried to force a pass to Snead. Snead was covered well by Captain Munnerlyn, who picked the ball off.
While the offense repeatedly struck out on offense, the defense gave up home runs to the Panthers. Baltimore’s defense had not a single answer for Cam Newton and the offense. Newton ran wild on the front seven, and the found rookie wide receiver DJ Moore and the veteran tight end to do his bidding as receivers. Moore caught five passes for 90 yards, and Olsen caught four for 56. The Ravens secondary was torn to shreds. Jimmy Smith held no tight coverage, and Tony Jefferson was outmatched. The Ravens could not even depend on C.J. Mosley, who performed one of the worst performances in his career. Mosley failed to cover most assignments, and left receivers and tight ends wide open, especially in the middle of the field.
Another one of Mosley’s shortcomings came in the run department. Mosley is typically good at stopping runs, but against the Carolina Panthers, he was useless. Mosley was seemingly confused and slow to get to the ball carrier. Often he picked the wrong angle and lost his target. Whether it was Cam Newton or Christian McCaffrey, Mosley was unable to do anything to stop them. The rest of the Ravens had difficulties in the same department as well. Cam Newton ran for 52 yards and a touchdown on ten attempts, while McCaffrey ran 14 times for 45 yards and a touchdown. Often, the Panthers used misdirection plays, which the Ravens consistently fell for. This allowed the Panthers to keep the game in control.
The Baltimore Ravens simply could not gain any momentum against the Carolina Panthers. From the second offensive drive to the end of the game, the Ravens fell further and further into a hole that they could not climb out of. Baltimore looked uninspired, sluggish, confused, and distraught on the field. The Ravens made critical errors in the forms of penalties and missed opportunities. The starkest examples of this come on two consecutive plays. Leading by seven late in the first quarter, the Ravens faced a third and one. Baltimore opted to give the ball to Lamar Jackson, who saw a wide-open Willie Snead. On a pass that would yield a first down, and potentially keep Baltimore’s momentum alive, Lamar Jackson missed Snead by a mile. On the very next play, Baltimore ran a punt fake which gave the team a first down, only to be called back by virtue of an illegal shift on Morgan Cox, the long snapper.
Ultimately, the Ravens could not get out of their own way for much of the game, and the Ravens fell to 4-4. Baltimore now facing the prospect of missing the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year must find a way to rebound quickly. The Ravens will head back to Baltimore to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second of the two-game series. The Ravens beat the Steelers in Heinz Field in week 4 and will need to find a way to earn another victory in week 9.