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The Breakdown: Eisenberg's Five Thoughts vs. Panthers


Five thoughts on the Ravens' 38-10 win over the Carolina Panthers Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:

Carolina Will Ask: 'Why Did We Cut Steve Smith?'
The Panthers have never really explained why they parted ways with Steve Smith Sr. after last season. It's not hard to figure out. Smith fell to 11.6 yards per catch last season, a precipitous decline from the year before, so perhaps the Panthers had doubts about his ability to make plays downfield at age 35. And hey, even Smith admitted he was no longer a No. 1 receiver. With all that in mind, it's fair to say he's outperforming even his own expectations in Baltimore along with everyone else's. He's clearly the Ravens' No. 1 receiver, leading the team in catches, yards and touchdowns through four games. He's making big downfield plays every week, averaging 17.2 yards per catch. If he wanted to make the Panthers regret cutting him, well, he's already done that. After watching Smith humiliate his former team in his personal Revenge Bowl Sunday, I would say the writers covering the Panthers have every right to say to the team's offensive coaches: "OK, remind us again why you couldn't get the ball to Steve more than 10 yard downfield last year."

Panthers Also Torched Themselves
The Ravens certainly missed Anquan Boldin last season after trading him to the San Francisco 49ers, but at least they didn't have to play a game in San Francisco and have Boldin rub it in. That wouldn't have been fun. The Panthers found themselves in that situation Sunday and played down to the humbling occasion. Not only did Smith torch them, piling up more than 100 receiving yards in the first 23 minutes alone, but the Panthers repeatedly torched themselves. A nice drive on their first series was short-circuited by an offensive pass interference call. Just before halftime, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly dropped a potential pick-six that could have pulled his team within one score at halftime. On the first series of the second half, Carolina forced a three-and-out but lined up with 12 men on the punt, drawing a flag that gave the Ravens a first down, which quickly turned into a touchdown. It was the second time the Panthers had been flagged for having 12 men on the field. A rough day all around.

Public Apology To Forsett
I need to issue a public apology to Justin Forsett. Or maybe just offer a clarification. After generating 97 rushing and receiving yards on 17 touches Sunday, Forsett told reporters with a smile that he had seen himself labeled a "scatback" and didn't really think that was accurate. Well, I was the one who called him that in Saturday's column, and upon further review, he certainly did more Sunday than just dart here and there, as a scatback would. Yes, he used his quickness to avoid hits and gain extra yards, but he also piled up tons of yards after Carolina defenders made initial contact. When you add that to the fact that he's the best pass blocker among the Ravens' backs, you have a pretty physical player, not just a scatback. He certainly was physical in ramming the ball into the end zone in the second quarter. "When people hit him, he's very good at keeping his feet underneath him," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "I feel like he spins a lot when he's getting (hit); guys fall off him."

Zero Sacks With Undrafted Rookie In ProtectionThe Ravens piled up a bunch of impressive numbers Sunday. Flacco passed for 327 yards and three touchdowns, generating a 137.4 quarterback rating. The offense produced touchdown drives of 80, 80, 80, 68 and 55 yards. But while all that is great, the most impressive number was zero. That's the number of times Flacco was sacked Sunday. In fact, that's the number of times Flacco has been sacked in the last three games. That's right, Flacco hasn't been sacked since the end of the Ravens' season-opening loss to the Bengals on Sept. 7 – an amazing stat considering he went down 48 times in 2013, and even more amazing when you consider the line protecting him Sunday featured an undrafted rookie free agent at left tackle and a 2013 fifth-round draft pick at right tackle. But James Hurst and Rick Wagner held up fine, as did the entire line. That's how big numbers get produced.

Quick Hits
"I have the best guards in the NFL" Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah said, referring to Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele playing on either side of him. Yanda obliterated Kuechly, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the year, on Forsett's touchdown run. That's how you make the Pro Bowl, as Yanda has for three straight years … Interesting from Carolina quarterback Cam Newton on former teammate Steve Smith: "He has a lot of tread (left) on those tires. I wish he was still here, but things happen." Sounds like the locker room has issues with the move … With Dennis Pitta out, receiver Marlon Brown saw his playing time increase and responded with three catches. Expect that pattern to continue … The Ravens' run defense continues to be stout. The Panthers averaged 2.6 yards per carry. The Ravens are limiting opponents to 3.3 yards per carry for the season.

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