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Ravens vs. Panthers: The good, the bad and the ugly

Baltimore Ravens v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Yesterday was rough. The Ravens number one ranked defense was thrashed by Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey and Maryland Terrapin product D.J. Moore. The offense put together only one real drive and the score final score really doesn’t represent how dominant the Panthers played against Baltimore.

Sidenote — Yesterday, many readers were upset with my post-game ‘MVP, Stock-up, Stock-down’ article for not calling out players individually. I’ve been attempting to strike a balance between these two posts. They are alike in structure and content. For that reason, I saved a lot for this article and to give myself and the disappointed fans some time to cool off, rather than stoking the flames.

The Good

The first drive of the game: The Ravens moved the chains and capped off the opening drive with a rushing touchdown from Alex Collins. Joe Flacco got the wheels going with a 13-yard run to move the chains further past the 50. Next play, Lamar Jackson sprinted for another 17-yard gain. Two plays later, Alex Collins finished the drive by breaking two tackles and stiff-arming a third defender on his way for a 14-yard rushing touchdown.

Justin Tucker completed his next PAT: It only took a missed PAT in the last game to get the announcers to shut up about his perfect streak. It was nice to see Tucker bounce back without fail. I’m certain every Ravens fan knew the next one was going in, but now it’s done and over with.

Za’Darius Smith continues to disrupt: As PFF sent us the stats, Smith racked up six pressures against the Panthers on Sunday; he managed two hits and four hurries. He’s finally hitting his stride and lets all hope the Ravens find the cap for him.

Punt coverage unit: Sam Koch is arguably the best in the game and the punt coverage unit did their jobs well. They even pinned the Panthers at the one-yard line. Koch ended the game averaging 51-yards per punt.

Garbage time excitement: For the second time this season, Lamar Jackson stepped onto the field in garbage time. Though it wasn’t fun watching the team lose and his first touchdown pass to Hayden Hurst feeling worthless at the moment, it was enjoyable seeing the future step onto the field.

Three-game home stand: Baltimore is done traveling for awhile. They play this Sunday and then rest for their Week 10 bye. Afterward, two more weeks at the M&T Bank stadium.

The bye week is near: The injuries are mounting on the offensive line. The Ravens played Jermaine Eluemunor and Hronnis Grasu against Carolina after both Alex Lewis and James Hurst were inactive and Ronnie Stanley suffered a knee injury mid-game (though he returned later). Close out the Steelers and rejuvenate.

The Bad

Number one defense: Where you at? Zero sacks against the Carolina Panthers. Only a single sack against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. No interceptions in these two games and only one recovered fumble. Yes, Marlon Humphrey and Willie Henry were both out and those are two important players among the defense, but nobody can convince me they’re the biggest contributors.

C.J. Mosley: I no longer see an All-Pro on the field when watching the starting linebacker. He’s lost in pass coverage and not consistent enough in creating pressure or making plays in the backfield to warrant anything near a big free agent deal after the 2018 season.

Matt Judon: Halfway through the season, my expected breakout candidate of 2018 has vanished. He’s produced only 1.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and five QB hits in eight games (PFR). Last season, he produced 8.0 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and 19 QB hits. Unless he turns it on for the second-half of the season, he won’t eclipse last years’ numbers, let alone out-produce them.

Tony Jefferson: He’s not skilled enough to cover tight ends consistently. He isn’t a star in deep safety coverage, either. Yes, he can play in the box but the Ravens paid Brandon Williams and drafted run-stoppers to deal with the run game. They need a safety who can run alongside tight ends and running backs in the open field. The Ravens signed him to a four-year/$34 million deal and he’s not consistently producing in pass coverage to warrant his contract.

Jimmy Smith: This roller coaster is getting exhausting, even for me, a Jimmy Smith stan.

He was suspended for the first four games. Then, he dominates against the Browns. He plays well against the Titans, too. But afterward, Drew Brees and Michael Thomas show up and carve him up. Smith admitted after the game he takes blame for the loss. Next game, Smith gives up five of six targets for 58 yards against Cam Newton and the Panthers. This defense needs its star cornerback for every start. They rely heavily on Smith when he’s in the lineup and the spotlight is heightened when he doesn’t perform to expectation.

Wide receivers: What is going on with receivers who come to Baltimore? Does everybody suddenly forget how to catch? Crabtree has always been on-and-off, but mercy, when Joe Flacco finally started playing well the receivers weren’t completing the play. This team as a whole needs to tighten up.

Joe Flacco: What the hell was that interception? Buys time and wheels out to his right only make a terrible decision and give it to the Panthers safety, Mike Adams. He didn’t link up on any deep shots to John Brown or Michael Crabtree, either. This team can’t get by on only short throws and safety valves. There is too much firepower on this offense to score only 14 points.

The Ugly

Penalties: The first drive wasn’t all positive, though it ended with a touchdown and in my ‘Good’ column. The first drive suffered two pre-snap penalties before the ball was snapped three times. There were three penalties for 20 yards on the first drive and a total of nine penalties for 68 yards by the games end. Hard to win games when you’re competing against the other team and your mistakes.

The upcoming schedule: While I mentioned the next few games are at home in the Good section, I didn’t mention the upcoming matchups. The Ravens meet up with Pittsburgh this Sunday for another edition of the heated rivalry. Then, after the bye, Cincinnati comes to the Castle. Maybe this time the secondary figures out how to cover #18, A.J. Green? These two games are critical in getting back to the playoffs. If they can win both, they have a chance of moving back into first for the AFC North title.