After beginning the game by forcing two straight three-and-outs and rolling down the field for a touchdown, the Baltimore Ravens turned in a very sloppy performance in a preseason loss to the Panthers.
Joe Flacco threw two interceptions, though at least one wasn't his fault, as the offense struggled for the third straight preseason game. The Panthers scored four touchdowns, all of which were scored by their defense or special teams unit. They returned a punt, two interceptions and a fumble for touchdowns, which is a great way to lose a game to even the league's worst teams.
The Ravens still have serious issues at receiver and tight end. Tandon Doss still doesn't understand the concept of a hot route and Dallas Clark looked unsure of himself in the passing game. Deonte Thompson remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Jacoby Jones looked a bit better than he did in the first two preseason games, but still isn't doing enough to show he deserves to start.
Special teams was the team's biggest strength last season, but it was a liability against the Panthers. Not only did the Ravens surrender a punt return for a touchdown, but Jones looked like he was still on "Dancing with the Stars" on his kickoff and punt returns. Given John Harbaugh's background, I wouldn't expect to see that type of performance again.
There was some good news despite all of the mistakes. Marshal Yanda and Lardarius Webb returned to the field and both looked to be 100 percent. Ray Rice looked much quicker than he was at the end of last season, which is hopefully a sign of things to come. Marlon Brown hauled in four passes, including a nice catch and run on a touchdown reception. Not only will he probably make the team now, but he could be pushing for a starting job opposite of Torrey Smith.
The defense was tremendous and showed why it will be much improved from last year. The defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, shutting down the running game and putting plenty of pressure on Cam Newton. Linebacker Daryl Smith must be thrilled to be in Baltimore, and the Ravens are certainly happy to have him. He looks like a huge free agent addition.
It's certainly not time to panic, but there are reasons to be concerned heading into the fourth preseason game, which will see little, if any, playing time for most of the starters. The Broncos game is less than two weeks away, and the Ravens look like a team that needs more training camp and preseason time, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Notes: The Ravens did make a trade Thursday, sending wide receiver David Reed to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for running back Delone Carter. Reed was probably on the chopping block considering his extensive injury history and the fact he hasn't shown much in training camp or the preseason, so the Ravens decided to get something for him. Carter gives the Ravens a third running back who is familiar with Jim Caldwell from their days together in Indianapolis. The trade is probably not a good sign for Anthony Allen, who will now likely be cut.