Revenge is a strong stimulant, which was probably the driving force in the tour de force Steve Smith put on display, leading the Baltimore Ravens to a 38-10 win over his ex, the Carolina Panthers, making Joe Flacco look great while the quarterback on the other side, Cam Newton, didn’t have much to do but feel a little bit jealous.
Maybe more than a little bit. While Flacco finished the game with 327 passing yards and three touchdown throws, two of them to Smith, Cam Newton once again looked more than slightly limited and didn’t finish the game. He completed just 14-of-25 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown pass, but there’s no running from him (only 7 yards on two carries) and the combination of Jonathan Stewart and Darrin Reaves didn’t do much to help.
It was a bad game in more than one way for the Panthers, falling to 2-2, losing their second consecutive game, and not just because of watching Steve Smith, maybe the best player in the history of the franchise, looking young, fast and dangerous with a different jersey. They didn’t force any turnovers, lost one fumble and were penalized twice during the game for having 12 men on the field. For all the compliments Ron Rivera got for his work last season, something has to be said about the deficiencies on this team so far in this year. Giving up 454 yards of offense to the Ravens wasn’t something anyone expected.
The Ravens look good, even without Ray Rice in the backfield, or maybe despite of him. Justin Forsett ran for 66 yards and scored a touchdown. Lorenzo Taliaferro added another touchdown himself. Not having a go-to guy isn’t hurting them at this point, while Flacco looks a lot better than last season, a lot more comfortable and confident in the options he has in front of him when throwing the ball.
Smith finished with 7 receptions for 139 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Torrey Smith caught one as well. Smith has now caught 25 passes this season for 429 yards and three touchdowns, going over 100 yards three times and at his “worst” helping out with “just” 71 yards. Is he liking it without Newton? He had his first multi-touchdown game since 2011, and in three years with Cam Newton had just one like that. It took only four weeks with Flacco to reach that mark.
There’s a rumor going around Smith said Newton doesn’t have the quick thinking needed from a quarterback in the red zone. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. What is clear to see and prove is that Newton is finding it very difficult to make plays without being 100%. The reaction time in his head might be there, but the ability to adjust with his body and especially his feet is gone for now, and without much of a running game or extraordinary receivers, it sometimes looks embarrassing out there.
The Baltimore Ravens learned well from their off year last season which almost ended in the postseason. The offense looks solid and the team has been able to get over the Ray Rice issue, at least on the field. Behind the scenes nothing is over. For the Panthers, last year also came with a slow start, but looking at all the signs, nothing seems to indicate another impressive run from October going forward is going to happen.