CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers didn’t wait until the fourth quarter to turn it up a notch on offense.
The result was an impressive win against the league’s top-ranked defense.
Newton completed 21 of 29 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 52 yards and another score as the Panthers soundly defeated the Baltimore Ravens 36-21 on Sunday for their ninth straight win at home.
Christian McCaffrey had two touchdowns and the Panthers continued to get electrifying performances from different players. This time, it was rookie wide receiver D.J. Moore, who turned in his best game as a pro with 129 yards from scrimmage.
“We present a lot of issues for defenses and that is what this offense was kind of built for,” Newton said. “We have dynamic players all around the field.”
Unlike last Sunday when they needed three fourth quarter touchdowns to erase a 17-0 deficit and beat the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles 21-17, the Panthers took it to the Ravens early and often.
After spotting the Ravens a 7-0 lead on the game’s first possession, the Panthers (5-2) scored on four straight drives in the final 16 minutes of the first half to break the game open and take a 24-7 halftime lead.
Newton threw an 11-yard TD pass to Greg Olsen , McCaffrey ran for a 11-yard score and leaped into the air to corral a 6-yard TD pass that ricocheted off the hands of safety Eric Weddle and into his arms in the end zone. And when Baltimore (4-4) climbed to within 13 late in the third quarter, Newton was there to calmly drive the Panthers 85 yards in nine plays, racing in untouched from 12 yards out on a naked bootleg to put the game away early.
The Panthers rolled up 386 yards against a Ravens defense that had come in allowing a league-low 280.6 yards and 14.4 points per game.
Baltimore seemed a step behind all day long, unable to figure out the Panthers multiple misdirection plays.
“They present a lot of misdirection and formations, different plays and was tough to get in a rhythm with them and Cam played an outstanding game,” Ravens safety Eric Weddle said.
When asked why Carolina’s misdirection offense was so effective, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith held up one hand and said, “Look at my hand. Now if I smack you with this one (my other hand), you won’t see it coming. That’s how it works.”
Panthers defense: Carolina showed it can still play a little ‘D’ as well, forcing three turnovers.
The momentum-turning play came in the first quarter when defensive tackle Kyle Love crashed through the line and delivered a vicious hit on Ravens running back Alex Collins, jarring the ball loose. Defensive tackle Vernon Butler came up with the loose ball at the Ravens 12 after Luke Kuechly unsuccessfully tried to scoop and score. Three plays later, Newton found Olsen on a slant route giving Carolina a 14-7 lead it would never relinquish.
“Sometimes you’re unblocked and you have to make a play,” Love said.
Flacco: Got butts kicked: Baltimore’s Joe Flacco finished 22 of 39 for 192 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, and said the Panthers were more physical and simply played better.
“We got our butts kicked today,” Flacco said.
The loss was the second straight for the Ravens.
“There is obviously a bigger threat to let this stuff affect you mentally and how we are jelling together, so we have to combat that by being ourselves and being as tough as we can,” Flacco said.
Getting his kicks: Panthers kicker Graham Gano extended his streak to 39 consecutive field goals made at home – and 28 straight overall – after connecting from 54, 44 and 30 yards.
Gambling Harbaugh: How many coaches have the guts to make this call? Leading 7-0 in the first quarter at Carolina, Ravens coach John Harbaugh went for a fake punt from his own 10-yard line on a fourth-and-1 – and Baltimore appeared to pick it up easily with Anthony Levine plowing ahead for an 8-yard gain. However, the Ravens were called for an illegal shift on the play, wiping out the first down, and they wound up punting.
Harbaugh also went for a first down on fourth-and-1 from his own 34 and got it on a Flacco sneak.
Stealing three: The Panthers used their own brand of trickery to steal three points just before halftime.
Facing a fourth-and-7 at the Baltimore 44, coach Ron Rivera sent in backup QB Taylor Heinicke to throw an apparent Hail Mary with Newton’s shoulder still sore from last week’s game. But after the Ravens defense backed off, Heinicke saw Olsen alone lined up to the left side and he hauled in a 13-yard pass and ducked out of bounds with 2 seconds left. Gano came on to boot a 54-yard field goal to give Carolina momentum heading into the second half.
Nantional anthem: Panthers safety Eric Reid continued to protest against social and racial injustice by kneeling before the national anthem. Also, several fans took a knee during the national anthem outside of the stadium in support of Reid’s cause.
Injuries: Ravens starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley was helped off the field in the third quarter with a knee injury, but did return. The Panthers reported no injuries.
Up next: The Ravens host Pittsburgh next Sunday. The Panthers host Tampa Bay next Sunday.