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Carolina Panthers

Despite limiting Lamar Jackson, Panthers defense left looking for more big plays

Brian Burns

BALTIMORE ­– It wasn't easy to capture the mood across Carolina's defense after a 13-3 loss to Baltimore.

The Panthers did a generally solid job handling the multiple challenges Lamar Jackson presents. Carolina limited the Ravens' mobile quarterback to 31 yards rushing on 11 attempts with a single touchdown, throwing for 209 yards on 24-of-33 passing with an interception and three sacks. Baltimore didn't even get on the board until just before halftime (a Justin Tucker field goal) and the league's 12th-ranked offense put up just 13 points and 308 total yards.

But a loss stands as a loss whether the Ravens scored 13 or 31, and the Panthers found a way to lose late-game momentum in the fourth quarter and the turnover battle by two.

"I thought we came out fast in the beginning of the game," defensive end Brian Burns said. "In the second half, I would just say (in) those tough jobs – or any tough situations we get put in – we've got to come out with either a field goal or turnover. We've got to take the ball away."

The games was tied at 3 midway through the fourth quarter when the Ravens scored 10 unanswered points to close the day. That period included a gut-punch touchdown after a Shi Smith fumble, recovered by Baltimore's Marlon Humphrey at Carolina's 31-yard line. The ensuing one-two ground punch of a 29-yard Kenyan Drake rush and 1-yard Jackson touchdown run essentially finished the Panthers with just over 7 minutes left.

Burns said there were "a couple mishaps" against Jackson and the Ravens' running backs, and he felt Jackson was "calling his own number" more in the second half than in the first, but they knew that was a possibility.

Jackson ran the ball six times in the second half for just 4 yards after posting 27 yards on five attempts through the first half. The Ravens' run game improved in the second half, finishing the game with 115 yards on 30 carries (after just 37 yards in the first half).

"It's difficult," Burns said. "I mean, they have a difficult offense. Nobody really knows exactly what to do or exactly how to attack (Jackson). But I feel like we did good. We were solid, and he was mainly always accounted for. We knew later (in) the game he was going to start calling his own number more. I felt like we did a decent job containing him."

Burns accounted for one of the three sacks against Jackson. Defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and linebacker Frankie Luvu brought Jackson down the other two times.

Luvu agreed it was tough to continue chasing Jackson around for four quarters, as defenders around the league have found out plenty over the past five seasons.

"That's the thing, it feels like you're doing it over and over again," Luvu said. "But you've just got to keep sticking with your poise and keep doing your job. … Their offense is one of a kind, as far as trying to defend it."

Interim coach Steve Wilks said the defense needed to make more plays down the stretch, repeating a frequent message around "finishing." But he also said finishing games would need to work in all three phases.

"I love the way the defense played; it gave us an opportunity and a chance," Wilks said. "Offensively right here, we've got to be able to convert and get some things going. Special teams, we've got to come up with explosive plays. So kudos to the defense first half. We didn't make enough plays in the second half."

Burns said the Panthers go into each game aiming for three takeaways. And while defensive tackle Bravvion Roy's first career interception was exciting early, failing to turn that into points or force any other turnover was difficult for Carolina to overcome in a close contest.

Roy said he was close to an interception two weeks ago against Cincinnati's Joe Burrow, but he had an "Oh s---" moment when Jackson's ball fell into his grip for his first career pick.

Despite the career moment, Roy remained stoic after losing to the Ravens, focused on Wilks's message about finishing games.

"You've got to keep your head down and keep grinding," Roy said. "We played good the first half. We want to play better the second half. That's finishing. …

"(The interception) doesn't even matter; we lost. At the end of the day, the goal is to win."

And from veteran safety Xavier Woods' perspective, the Panthers need to turn more takeaways into points on the defensive side of the ball to help win games.

"I think the consensus in the room among us is we've got to find a way to score, put points on the board and not just hold them," Woods said. "Bottom line, we gave up too many points today, no matter how good we played."

Burns said the Panthers are back to focusing on how to end games well. Even though there are some good points to take from how they battled against Jackson, and they played a strong game in last week's win against Atlanta, there are more areas to improve before hosting Denver next week.

"We executed last week, and we did well," Burns said. "But this week, we have to get back to the drawing board and make it more of an emphasis."

View the best in-game photos from Carolina's Week 11 game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

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