BALTIMORE — Stop me if you've heard this one before.
An impressive defensive performance keeps the Panthers in the game despite lackluster play on the offensive side of the ball. Eventually, the opposing offense gets a go-ahead score and Carolina's offense fails to answer.
Unfortunately, this has been the game script for the majority of games in this era of the Carolina Panthers. We had not seen it since the week 6 game against the Rams, the same week that Matt Rhule was fired and replaced by interim head coach Steve Wilks.
It was a nice little break from reality with Wilks bringing back some of the mojo from the Panthers of yesteryear.
The Panthers' defense, which ended the Raven's 8-game streak of 150+ rushing yards, was stellar. An incredible interception by defensive tackle Brayvion Roy ended a potential scoring drive from the Ravens late in the 2nd quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Baker Mayfield and the Panthers' offense finally got the ball into Ravens territory but a 15-yard chop block penalty on Chubba Hubbard killed the drive's momentum. The Ravens would then kick a field goal as time expired in the first half.
The Panthers' best drive of the day came in the 3rd quarter, trailing 3-0. A 24-yard pass from Mayfield to Terrace Marshall on 3rd and 9 got Carolina deep into Ravens territory. A pass interference call a few plays later got them inside the RedZone. They would be forced to settle for a 32-yard Eddie Pineiro field goal, which tied the game up at 3.
Through three-quarters of play, both offenses struggled to get anything going as both teams had twice as many penalties as points.
The 4th quarter was the real turning point of the game.
The Ravens used a 12-play, 7-minute drive to go up 6-3 on a .37-yard Justin Tucker field goal. The Panthers' offense responded by going from bad to worse.
Two plays into their next drive Carolina would fumble the ball on their own 31-yard line as Ravens CB Marcus Peters stripped Shi Smith after a 4-yard completion. Two plays later Baltimore scored the first touchdown, and final score, of the game on a 1-yard Lamar Jackson run.
Carolina's next drive featured two sacks and a turnover on downs. Despite the Panthers' defense forcing another punt, the offense failed to capitalize. Mayfield's pass intended for Shi Smith was intercepted by Marlon Humphrey.
The game felt out of reach at this point but the defense once again played with pride forcing the Ravens' 7th punt of the day.
It seemed only fitting that the game would finally be put to rest after a Mayfield pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Baltimore defensive end Jason Piere-Paul.
The Panthers' offense totaled just 205 yards on 11 total drives, rushing for only 36 on the ground after averaging over 100 yards in their prior 4 games. Mayfield's return to the starting line-up found him picking up right where he left off with another lackluster performance that may have put the final nail in the coffin of his Panthers tenure.
After the game interim head Coach Steve Wilks would not answer a question about whether he will make a change a quarterback next week, explaining it would be too early to make that decision. "We've got to evaluate the tape, and then from there, I'll make a decision," he added.
Mayfield took ownership of the team's poor performance saying simply "Not good enough. We didn't win the game. I say take care of the ball, but we have to make more plays."
The last few weeks of enjoyable Panthers football were fun to watch and root for. The Ravens, who are every bit the organization that Tepper wants Carolina to be, brought that all crashing down to earth.
Now at 3-8 on the year, it is time for the Panthers organization to get their ducks in a row for the long-term future, including finding a franchise quarterback in the 2023 draft class.
Odds and Ends
-Terrace Marshall Jr continues to impress as he earns more and more playing time. He is averaging 2.6 catches on 4.8 targets for 58 yards over the last five weeks.
- Brian Burns got his 8th sack of the season as he looks to reach double-digit sacks for the first time in his career.
- Jeremy Chinn made his presence felt in his first game since week 3. His 10 total tackles tied the team-high.
- Baker Mayfield is now 1-5 as a starter for the Carolina Panthers. The team is averaging 16 points per game with him under center.