"That's what's most exciting, the way we are clicking both offensively and defensively," Lewis said. "The bottom line is everyone is lining up and playing fast. We're all playing well right now."
The quote above from the Baltimore Ravens' Ray Lewis epitomizes the consensus of opinions on the team's dominating victory over the Carolina Panthers in week 3 of the pre-season last night. While it still was an exhibition game, the starters played into the third quarter and left with a 17-3 lead. The Panthers excuse could easily have been that they were without both of their two starting running backs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. However, their backups were irrelevant and despite a couple of nice long passes to All Pro WR Steve Smith from QB Jake Delhomme, Carolina could only muster ten of their 13 points against the Ravens second-stringers in the fourth quarter.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco looked like he had the teams' offense running on all cylinders and might even be a decent fantasy pickup afterr going 23 for 28 and 247 yards, with a nine yard TD pass to TE Todd Heap in the second quarter. Flacco engineered touchdown drives of 80 and 90 yards against what has consistently been a very solid defense, much less on the road on the Panthers home field in front of a very disappointed crowd.
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While Derrick Mason was his usual solid self with six receptions for 71 yards , Kelley Washington stepped it up big time and more than likely nailed down his spot as one of the Ravens top receiving threats in the absence of Mark Clayton, who is still recovering from his hamstring tear, although he is supposed to be ready for the season opener in two weeks. Washington had only three catches but totalled 66 yards with the long one of 42 yards. Demetrius Williams also had four catches but was not the long threat that Washington was.
Ray Rice was the main target on offense, as he touched the ball 18 times last night, inlcuding ten rushing attempts and eight receptions for just under 100 total yards. However, the star of the offense was without a doubt the second year QB out of the little school in Delaware, from the College Football Subdivision (formally Division 1-AA). Flacco looked calm and poised like a veteran, scrambling out of the pocket and finding his receivers downfield time after time.
Defensively, the Ravens overwhelmed the Panthers whether they tried to run or pass the ball. Even though the great Steve Smith made his two big catches, the rest of the team were stymied by the Ravens suffocating defense which pressure Delhomme all evening and while he did not throw an interception, he was sacked twice and harassed all night long.
The kicking game continues to be a concern, as second year PK Steven Hauschka missed what should have been a 27 yard chip shot, but did hit a 38 yarder and both his PAT's. While he still looks to be the leader between himself and rookie Graham Gano, who did not attempt a kick last night, some people are saying that the team should be dialing free agent and former Raven kicker Matt Stover right about now. However, Stover is definitely not the answer to our kicking concerns, as he cannot hit the long one and carrying two kickers on the roster is just out of the question, as it takes up another roster spot which is ridiculous. Besides, if you can't hit a 50 yard field goal nowadays, you are just not NFL material.
All in all, we can continue to dissect this game in the comments you all post below and throughout the week. However, the Ravens play again on Thursday night in Atlanta against the Falcons in their final tuneup prior to the regular season kicking off on September 13th when they host the Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium in downtown Baltimore. The final pre-season game should only feature our starters for a series or two, and then the reserves will battle it out for the last few open roster spots, including the kicking competition, which still figures to go down until the wire.
The NFL Network will replay the Ravens-Panthers game on Tuesday at 4pm.