CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens find themselves 4-4 at the midway point of the NFL season and with a once vaunted and top-ranked defense suddenly looking inward for answers.
“I’m very concerned,” Ravens nose tackle Michael Pierce said. “We have to find a way to correct this ASAP if we want to reach our goal, which is to get to the playoffs.”
For the second week in row, the league’s top-ranked defense struggled against an NFC South opponent.
Baltimore allowed Cam Newton and the Panthers to roll up 386 yards on offense and score 24 first half points in a 36-21 loss Sunday in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Newton scored three touchdowns in all, and the Panthers used misdirection plays to keep the Ravens off balance.
Baltimore never sacked Newton and failed to create a turnover.
It didn’t help that Joe Flacco threw two interceptions and running back Alex Collins fumbled, leading to a Carolina touchdown.
But the defense, which has been the strength of this team, once again wasn’t there.
The loss comes one week after Baltimore’s defense allowed Drew Brees to throw for 212 yards and two touchdowns and the Saints to run for 134 yards in a 24-23 loss.
“You know, we are 4-4. We’re an average team,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We just lost, got blown out. So we’re, I wouldn’t say rock bottom, but we have to look at ourselves and get back to work.”
Division foes Pittsburgh (4-2-1) and Cincinnati (5-3) both won Sunday, leaving the Ravens in third and in need of a win next week when they host the Steelers, who’ve won three straight.
“It’s a huge game,” Weddle said. “Obviously a divisional game leading into the bye. The way our division is shaping up, this is a big game for us. Look at yourself — don’t get emotional, don’t get sensitive. This is part of the National Football League, so get coached up, look at the things you didn’t do well and move on. Don’t let this loss linger in any way. Just continue to get better. That’s all we can do. ”
Added Pierce: “It’s personal pride and we have to man up to what everybody’s doing and see what is going on, because two weeks in a row we didn’t get the job done.”
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said the team will need to rely on its veteran leaders to get through this tough time — and stay even keeled along the way.
“We are not going to get too low, but the attention to detail increases now,” Suggs said. “We have to play better in the red zone, and we have to play better situational football. Therefore, the game doesn’t get so on top of us. We are extremely disappointed, but we have enough veterans on this team and we understand the task at hand. Especially with all these home games we’ve got coming, so if we handle our business at home, we will be all right.”
Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said he was “surprised” at his team’s disappointing performance, particularly after they jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and seemed to have momentum.
“Yeah, I didn’t expect that,” Harbaugh said. “We just didn’t click in anything. We weren’t good in any area. There was nothing we did well and that starts with me. I mean, that’s where it belongs, so put it on me and then move forward and get ready for Pittsburgh.”
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