The Baltimore Ravens don’t have much time to dwell on their first loss of the season.
Coming off a short week and their first loss, the Ravens must face another defensive-minded team as they continue trying to get their offense going when they host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The best start in franchise history for the Ravens (4-1) came to an end on Monday night with a 13-3 loss to the Denver Broncos.
“Fortunately, it is a short week,” Baltimore coach Brian Billick said. “We will move on real quickly, and I would be surprised if this team doesn’t re-focus real quickly against a very good opponent at home despite the disappointment.”
Baltimore, which gives up 219.6 yards per game to rank second in the NFL and is fourth in points allowed at 9.2 per game, held the Broncos to 9 yards of offense in the first quarter but gave up a second-half touchdown for the first time all season.
Quarterback Steve McNair, meanwhile, threw for just 165 yards on 20-of-34 passing and was intercepted three times, including once in the end zone near the end of the first half. McNair has been intercepted six times and thrown for just five touchdown passes—three in the fourth quarter.
“We cannot depend on the comeback every week,” said McNair, who led the Ravens on late scoring drives to win their previous two games. “We have to play a whole 60 minutes. We had opportunities to score and we didn’t, and that is what we have to work on.”
Baltimore ranks 29th in the NFL with 267.6 yards of offense per game, and McNair is 29th among quarterbacks who have played more than one game with an average of 182.2 passing yards. The rushing game hasn’t been much better, averaging 97.2 yards per game.
Jamal Lewis leads the team with 311 yards on 88 carries.
“Our offense is not playing, plain and simple,” wide receiver Derrick Mason said. “It was evident in Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4 and very evident in Game 5. It’s very, very disappointing.”
Baltimore’s flight back from Denver made an unscheduled stop in Pittsburgh so cornerback Corey Ivy could go to a hospital for treatment of a kidney injury. Ivy was in stable condition Tuesday, but it is unknown how long he will be out.
Like the Ravens, Carolina (3-2) has been carried by its defense this season, particularly Julius Peppers.
Peppers is tied with Philadelphia’s Trent Cole for the league lead with six sacks.
“The guy is a great player,” Carolina coach John Fox said. He shows up to play every Sunday, and you hardly know he’s there during the week. That is a compliment. He has a lot of heart. We’re glad to have him.”
Since their season-opening defeat to Atlanta in which they allowed 252 rushing yards, the Panthers have held opponents to an average of 89.5 rushing yards.
The defense will have to finish the season without linebacker Dan Morgan, who suffered at least the fifth concussion of his career in Carolina’s season opener. Fox said Wednesday that Morgan will sit out the rest of the year.
A thigh injury to star receiver Steve Smith hampered the Panthers offense during an 0-2 start, but the team has won all three games since his return.
However, Carolina ranks ahead of only Tampa Bay in the NFC with 289.6 yards per game. Quarterback Jake Delhomme, who had five interceptions in his first five games last season, has been intercepted only once and has four touchdowns passes, but is averaging just 195.6 yards per game.
Smith went over 4,000 career receiving yards with a second-quarter catch last week, but finished with season lows of six receptions and 62 yards. He also had three drops, including one in the end zone.
“I hold myself to a high standard and I didn’t play up to par today,” Smith said.
Keyshawn Johnson caught a touchdown pass, but was held to five catches for 67 yards against an injury-depleted Cleveland secondary. Johnson, acquired as a free agent in the offseason, ranks fourth in the NFC with both 27 catches and 373 yards receiving.
Running back DeShaun Foster had his second straight 100-yard performance, rushing for 106 yards on 24 carries. Including the playoffs, the Panthers are 6-0 when he runs for 100 yards and 10-0 when he gets 70.
However, the Panthers went 0-for-11 on third down and are converting a league-worst 18.6 percent (11-of-59) of their chances in those situations.
“We just haven’t converted enough. Luckily, we’ve played pretty well on first and second down and haven’t gotten to third down on some drives,” Fox said. “That’s why were sitting here at 3-2.”
Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, the team’s first-round pick, sprained his right ankle last week and will not play against Baltimore.
Carolina has won both previous meetings with the Ravens, most recently a 10-7 victory on Sept. 8, 2002.