BALTIMORE - The Panthers' 38-10 loss to the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium was their second decisive defeat in as many weeks, and suddenly, a team that started 2-0 is rapidly searching for answers.
"We have to look at what we're doing and make sure it gets corrected," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We have to find answers, and we have to do it quickly."
Much like their AFC North brethren Steelers did against the Panthers last Sunday, the Ravens controlled the line of scrimmage and therefore controlled the game.
"It's very disturbing," Rivera said.
Baltimore outgained Carolina 454 yards to 315 thanks to a balanced attack that featured 31 passes and 30 rushes.
The Panthers, despite their efforts to bring pressure, failed to register a sack.
"When we did bring pressure, we were a step late," Rivera said, "and that's unfortunate."
As a result, a comfortable and well-protected Joe Flacco completed 22-of-31 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
"We weren't very good against the run and we weren't very good against the pass either," safety Thomas DeCoud said. "We've got to figure out what's going on, figure out where the chink in the armor is and get it corrected."
Flacco's first touchdown went to former Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr., who was in the right place at the right time.
The pass was intended for tight end Owen Daniels, who got one hand on the ball and redirected it into the path of Smith. He caught the ball in stride and ran 61 yards to give the Ravens a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.
Carolina answered with a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Newton fired a strike down the sideline to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery for a 30-yard gain on third-and-eight to keep the drive alive. Then on third-and-14, he found wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin wide open for a 28-yard touchdown.
Baltimore wasted little time regaining the lead, moving the ball in chunks before running back Justin Forsett plunged in for a 1-yard touchdown.
The Ravens added to the lead after a Carolina three-and-out. Flacco beat the blitz with a 29-yard completion to Torrey Smith over the middle, setting up Smith Sr.'s second touchdown of the day.
Flacco lofted a pass down the sideline, and despite pass interference from cornerback Melvin White, Smith Sr. hauled in the 21-yard pass in the back of the end zone.
"Steve had a nice day," Rivera said. "The ball gets tipped, he catches it for a touchdown. (Then) he beats Melvin in man coverage and, quite honestly, I would like to see Melvin maintain his composure there, because if he rolls with Steve, he would've had a chance for a play."
A miscue at the start of the second half was a devastating punch to Carolina's gut. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards stopped Forsett for a loss of two yards on third-and-one to force a punt.
But Carolina had 12 men on the field for the punt return, giving the Ravens a new set of downs. Seven plays later, Flacco completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith, giving Baltimore a 28-7 lead.
"It just never seemed like we were able to claw our way back in," tight end Greg Olsen said. "It was just an all-around poor effort."
Graham Gano converted a 37-yard field goal for the Panthers after a 30-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin was overturned and ruled an incompletion when instant replay showed that Benjamin had one foot out of bounds.
Ravens running back Lorenzo Tallaferro recorded a 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter and Justin Tucker later converted a 30-yard field goal to account for the final scoring.
Backup quarterback Derek Anderson took over for Newton with 3:33 remaining and closed out a second consecutive lopsided loss.
"We took it on the chin today," safety Roman Harper said. "Everybody has to stand up and get a little bit better and, at the end of the day, this is not what this team is all about. And it's not what we want it to be about."