Three things to watch in Sunday’s Carolina Panthers game against the Baltimore Ravens:
Blood, guts and glory
The Panthers failed to match the Steelers’ intensity last week when Ron Rivera said he did a poor job keeping the focus as the team and league dealt with Greg Hardy. The long-anticipated matchup with Steve Smith will have the Panthers’ full attention. But defensive players – we’re talking to you, Josh Norman – can’t get let their emotions get the best of them when Smith inevitably begins his jawing. They need to treat Smith like any other receiver: Keep him in front of them, and limit the big-play damage.
Put a hurting on Hurst
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Carolina is well off the pace of defensive tackle Colin Cole’s goal of an NFL-record 72 sacks, failing to get consistent pressure in two games without Hardy. But Sunday they face undrafted rookie James Hurst, the former All-ACC player at North Carolina making his first start at left tackle in place of the injured Eugene Monroe. But Hurst was no slouch at UNC, starting a school-record 49 games and holding Jadeveon Clowney without a sack in the 2013 opener.
Running out of ideas
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula says the Panthers will commit to the run game after finishing with a franchise-low 10 carries against Pittsburgh. DeAngelo Williams will have to shoulder the load, with Mike Tolbert out and Jonathan Stewart questionable with injuries. Williams can only do so much if the line doesn’t block better and Shula can’t figure out a way to at least make it appear quarterback Cam Newton might run the ball.