While the Carolina Panthers were worried about Joe Flacco’s big arm beating them deep, Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens were focused on getting the ball out quickly.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera pulled out his stopwatch Monday morning to time how quickly the Ravens quarterback got rid of the ball. On most plays that weren’t play-action pass, Flacco would take the snap and pass the ball within 2 seconds.
Flacco went 22-of-31 for 327 yards and three touchdowns. His 137.4 passer rating was the best in Ravens’ history.
“Obviously it was part of their game plan: Getting the ball out his hands quickly to negate our pass rush,” Panthers safety Thomas DeCoud said. “It was a little bit difficult because throughout the course of the week we were keyed in to his arm and keeping things in front of us and making sure guys don’t get behind us. It threw us for a little bit of a loop, but they had a good game plan. They knew how to slow down our great front four, front seven.”
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The Ravens followed the Saints’ normal gameplan against Carolina. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees has been a maestro at getting the ball to his receivers quickly against the Panthers to neutralize their pass rush.
Carolina did not record a sack against the Ravens and only hit the quarterback twice.
Rivera also lamented Baltimore’s ability to get in short-yardage situations on second and third downs. On the Ravens’ 23 first-down plays through the first three quarters – before the Ravens salted the game away with running plays – they averaged 7.9 yards per play.
The lack of a consistent rush carried over from Week 3’s loss to Pittsburgh. The Panthers have been without embattled defensive end Greg Hardy, and the other starting defensive end, Charles Johnson, didn’t appear on the defensive stat sheet. Johnson dealt with a hip flexor injury in his right leg for most of the game.
Carolina reinstated defensive end Frank Alexander on Monday after he spent the first four games serving a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Rivera said his addition will “probably” help the team’s rush, and the Panthers have seven days to activate him to the 53-man roster.
Still, there’s a need for the Panthers to combat what the Ravens were able to accomplish for the sake of future games.
“It’s just us being ready, getting a feel for what thee offense is doing early in the game and being able to adjust our play accordingly,” DeCoud said.