The Carolina Panthers rushed 26 times Sunday for 67 yards, an average of a paltry 2.6 yards per carry. Their longest run was 7 yards. More fun with numbers: Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco threw 31 passes and was not sacked. If the Panthers can’t run, and they can’t get to the quarterback, how do they win? I don’t see a method. Neither Jonathan Stewart nor Mike Tolbert, two of Carolina’s top backs, were available. Each is injured. DeAngelo Williams was healthy when the game began. But he got hurt.
• I fell Saturday and cracked a rib, and after the Charlotte-Baltimore game I meet with one of Baltimore’s doctors. As we talk, Steve Smith, who sits near, can hear us. He asks what happened. I tell him.
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Smith, who is gracious after the game, shaking hands and saying thanks, says: “That’s payback, for all the bad columns you wrote.”
“If it’s payback, wouldn’t I have died?” I ask.
“I don’t want you to die,” Smith says. “I only want to see you suffer.”
He smiles as he says this.
• The Panthers were uncharacteristically sloppy. They were penalized seven times for 59 yards, Baltimore four times for 40. The Panthers twice were penalized for having too many men on the field. Find me a penalty that attests to sloppiness and carelessness as greatly as this one does.
• One quality Ron Rivera has offered as a head coach is that his players believe in him and don’t quit on him. They’ve never abandoned him. Rivera can’t abandon the philosophy that made him coach of the year in 2013. What’s evident is the Panthers desperately miss defensive end Greg Hardy. Without him the pass rush would have to improve to be average. Baltimore started an undrafted rookie, James Hurst, at left tackle. The Panthers could not exploit Hurst, who played at North Carolina. They were handled.
• Cam Newton had a nice quote about Steve Smith. “I told him how proud I was of him,” says Newton. “He has a lot of tread on those tires. He’s like one of those big Tonka trucks. He’s an unbelievably talented player and I respect him so much. I wasn’t surprised at the way he played. I’m one of his biggest fans. I wish he were still (with Carolina), but things happen I wish him the best.”
• If you need something positive to take away from Sunday’s loss, this is it: The Panthers don’t have to play Baltimore again.