Rapid Reactions: After quick glimpse at starters, Panthers fall to Ravens

Sam Darnold vs Ravens
Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold passes against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

CHARLOTTE — The quarterback looked good.

Also, the starting quarterback looked fine, such that it mattered.

Also, the Panthers lost to the Ravens, such that it mattered.

The Ravens beat the Panthers 20-3, for their 19th straight preseason win, which is as ridiculous a stat as there has ever been. But the story was the play of the quarterbacks, or the lack thereof.

Panthers starter Sam Darnold was out there without DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey, and made the most of his two passes this preseason.

Darnold completed his first pass for 16 yards to Robby Anderson, and threw the second one away on purpose, and then gave way to Will Grier. That made it a productive night for the Panthers' starter.

Darnold wasn't going to play long anyway, but the absence of two of his top playmakers made it an easier call to hold him back against the Ravens. He got plenty of work against them this week in joint workouts.

The Panthers' plan is to play all the starters more extensively next week in the preseason finale against the Steelers, which is a sentence no one has ever typed, and not for a lack of opportunities.

"I think just continue to build off of what we did that first drive, obviously score touchdowns, but just continue to see a really good operation," Darnold said of his goals against the Steelers. "Getting in and out of the huddle, making the right checks, everyone communicating together and then like I just said, punching it in. That's what we want to see."

Having seen enough of the starters after a series, they turned to Grier, and he looked as good as he ever has in a Panthers uniform.

Grier was 11-of-14 for 144 yards, after only getting to throw 10 passes late last week against the Colts. He played one series into the third quarter, before P.J. Walker got his chance.

The Panthers still list Grier "or" Walker as the backup, though Walker likely has the incumbent advantage, if there is an advantage.

While Grier didn't get many chances to make plays last week, he aired it out Saturday, hitting Terrace Marshall Jr., Shi Smith, and Chuba Hubbard for long gains.

Grier's been accurate throughout, but coaches wanted to see him take a few more shots downfield, and he did that Saturday.

Walker had a rough night, and Grier was better against the Ravens than Walker was against the Colts, so this competition may truly be tied now.

— The starting defense didn't stay out long, but made an impact.

Haason Reddick had an early interception of Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley (Ravens star Lamar Jackson didn't play at all), and there were only scattered snaps of starters after the first possession.

Reddick's backup, Frankie Luvu, forced a fumble in the first half and batted down a pass in the third quarter, the second week in a row he made highlights.

Luvu is a good special teams player, but appears set to play a larger role on defense, and contribute to a deep group of pass rushers.

— Kicker Joey Slye got people grumbling again by missing a 37-yard field goal, but came back to hit a 41-yarder later in the first half.

He missed a 43-yard extra point last week in Indiana, along with a 63-yard field goal.

Asked about his status after the game, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule made it clear the results were not acceptable.

"It's like everything else – you have to produce – and so far, Joey has not produced at the level we need him to," Rhule said. "I think he'd be the first guy to say that, so we to find a way to get over that hump with him."

— Safety Kenny Robinson left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury, and was immediately announced as out for the rest of the game. That's seldom a good sign.

If his injury is serious, it will be the second week in a row for a defensive back trying to make the roster, after cornerback Troy Pride Jr. suffered a torn ACL in Indianapolis.

— The Panthers are taking this DBO thing seriously.

Guard Deonte Brown came out of the game after a false start early, though he returned a couple of series later.

Brown has a chance to force his way into more playing time, but only if he plays mistake-free football.

View game action photos from Carolina's preseason game against Baltimore at Bank of America Stadium.

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