A Spectacular Sunday
For seven minutes, it looked like it was going to be a third straight questionable performance by the Panthers. Then they stepped on the Ravens' throats.
Baltimore began the game by cruising 75 yards on an 11-play touchdown drive. Their next six drives netted 92 yards and no points. By the time the Ravens got moving again, the game was effectively decided.
That's because quarterback Cam Newton and offensive coordinator Norv Turner ran circles around the league's top-ranked defense, racking up 36 points – the most allowed by the Ravens this season – and nearly 400 yards. Perhaps most importantly, Newton wasn't sacked against the team that led the league in sacks and QB hits. Actually, he was barely even touched.
After a day like this, it's OK to start getting at least a little excited about the 5-2 Panthers.
Follow the Bouncing Ball
After the Panthers' fell to the Redskins two weeks ago, head coach Ron Rivera said, "You make your own breaks."
Sure, the Panthers outplayed the Ravens on Sunday, but Carolina also seemed to get all the bounces, including a pair on a key second-quarter drive.
Leading 14-7 and facing a third-and-1 from Baltimore's 45-yard line, Cam Newton bounced a pitch to DJ Moore. But the rookie quickly corralled it and zoomed past linebacker C.J. Mosley en route to a 37-yard gain.
Two plays later, Newton's pass for a slanting Devin Funchess was batted into the air. Sometimes it's just your day:
What a Start
The NFL's funny.
The Panthers, who dug themselves consecutive 17-0 holes the past two weeks, took a 17-point lead into the half against the Ravens, who came into the game favored by 2.5 points.
Carolina's spectacular start wasn't just surprising after those trips to Washington and Philadelphia. What made it more eye-opening was it came against a Ravens' defense that had limited opponents to these types of numbers per game: 14.4 points, 280.6 total yards, 90.1 rushing yards and 190.4 passing yards.
Compare that to what the Panthers put up in the first half: 24 points, 233 yards, 73 rushing yards and 160 passing yards.
What a wild and confusing sequence at the end of the half.
I'm writing this before talking to Ron Rivera and players, but here's what it sounds like what happened:
–The Panthers didn't want to send Graham Gano out for a 62-yard field goal attempt because they were worried about a possible Ravens' return if Gano had come up short.
–Taylor Heinicke went in to attempt a Hail Mary, but he switched that up when he saw Baltimore blitzing.
–That meant a shorter toss to tight end Greg Olsen, who was able to get out of bounds after a 13-yard gain.
–Gano nailed a 54-yarder to put the Panthers up 17 at the break.