The Carolina Panthers entered Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens thin at running back.
They left even thinner.
With the Panthers already without Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert, DeAngelo Williams injured his right ankle on a first-half rush and did not return. After the game he had a protective boot on his right foot.
Williams, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, had 34 yards on 11 carries as he ran hard but struggled to find holes in the 38-10 loss.
His injury only added to the Panthers’ rushing woes.
Carolina finished with 67 rushing yards on 26 carries, the third consecutive game the Panthers failed to get at least 100 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Cam Newton remained hesitant to run, and he had two rushes for 7 yards to tie his career low for rushes, set last week against Pittsburgh.
“Obviously he’s hampered by an ankle injury, so he didn’t run that much,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “So we were pretty happy about that.”
Undrafted rookie Darrin Reaves did what he could in place of Williams, but he often was stoned near the line of scrimmage. He had just 26 yards on 12 rushes.
Tauren Poole, whom the Panthers signed last week to help with depth at the position, fumbled on the first carry of his career. Not surprisingly, Panthers coach Ron Rivera expressed concerned for his backfield.
“We’re playing two undrafted free agents right now at running back,” Rivera said. “As of right now, Darrin Reaves is our starter.”
Tolbert won’t be back until at least mid-November as he recovers from a fractured leg that placed him on the injured reserve/designated to return list.
Stewart suffered a knee sprain against Pittsburgh. The Panthers evaluated him Friday but he didn’t look as good as the team had hoped. Backup fullback Richie Brockel injured his ankle early in the game and did not get a carry.
“It’s the next man up type deal with no ‘woe is me’ attitude,” Reaves said. “That’s just the game, the business.”
Davis close to playing: Veteran linebacker Thomas Davis was one drill away from playing.
Davis was questionable with hip and hamstring injuries, and during warmups he went through all the necessary drills to determine if he’d be active. In a drill to build up his speed, Davis felt his hamstring tug at him, and the Panthers ruled he wasn’t healthy enough to play.
“I’d rather suffer through today than lose a guy for four more weeks, six more weeks,” Rivera said.
Davis said he was “within a few yards” from being able to play. Still, he understood the decision. Chase Blackburn started in his place.
“They just felt I wasn’t ready,” Davis said. “I’m going to make sure I do everything in my power to be ready for Chicago next week.”
Along with Davis and Williams, quarterback Joe Webb, offensive lineman Andrew Norwell, tight end Brandon Williams, safety Tre Boston and running back Fozzy Whittaker were inactive.
Benjamin shines : Though the day belonged to his predecessor, Baltimore’s Steve Smith, Panthers rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin had a big day himself.
Benjamin caught five passes for 76 yards and a touchdown and came within inches of a second touchdown.
Busted coverage allowed Newton to hit Benjamin for a 28-yard touchdown in the first half.
“I would like to say they made a play, but they did not,” Smith said. “We literally could not have busted the coverage any worse.”
In the second half, Newton found Benjamin on the left side of the end zone for what was initially ruled a touchdown. But replays showed Benjamin’s right foot touched just out of bounds, and the call was overturned.
“You couldn’t ask for anybody to put the ball more perfectly,” Smith said. “I thought I was going to have a pick, and at the last second I was like, ‘Wow, the ball is still carrying.’ ”
But Benjamin had a few mistakes, as well. He was called for offensive pass interference early, a call Rivera disputed. And he was the 12th man on the field in Carolina’s opening drive.
“We had a lot of mistakes,” Benjamin said of the offense. “We have room for growing, and we’ll get into the film room and get better as a team.”
By the numbers
0 Interceptions for Cam Newton this season.
19.9 Yards per catch for Steve Smith on Sunday.
1 Punt for the Ravens on Sunday.
76.9 Percent third-down efficiency for Baltimore, a franchise record.
3 trips to the red zone for Carolina with zero touchdowns to show for it.