BALTIMORE (AP)—Jake Delhomme wasn’t about to be upstaged by a backup quarterback who hadn’t tossed a touchdown pass since Christmas.
Delhomme threw for a career-high 365 yards and two touchdowns, and Carolina slipped past the Baltimore Ravens 23-21 Sunday for its fourth straight win.
After Ravens quarterback Steve McNair left with a concussion and sprained neck in the first quarter, Kyle Boller took over. A starter for three years before being displaced by McNair, Boller threw three touchdown passes to provide Baltimore (4-2) with its biggest scoring output since Week 2.
But every time Boller and the Ravens did something right, Delhomme answered. His favorite target was Steve Smith, who had eight catches for 189 yards and a score.
Smith missed the season’s first two games with a thigh injury. The Panthers (4-2) haven’t lost since his return.
“When Steve came back, certainly it helped. In my opinion, it’s like taking Michael Vick away from Atlanta, like taking Peyton (Manning) away from the Colts,” Delhomme said. “Other teams got to account for him on every play.”
After Mark Clayton took a tipped pass for a 62-yard touchdown to bring the Ravens to 16-14 with 4:33 to go, Delhomme tossed a 72-yard touchdown pass to Smith on the next play from scrimmage.
“I thought I was going to throw to Keyshawn (Johnson),” Delhomme said. “But when I look, all I see is 89 running down the field with his hand up in the air. A lot of guys were giving me grief on the sidelines, saying they were waiting for the ball to come down.”
It landed in Smith’s arms, and the speedy receiver carried it into the end zone to deflate the record crowd of 70,762.
“That was huge, just to come out there and be able to shut the crowd up like that,” Panthers running back DeShaun Foster said.
A 7-yard pass from Boller to Todd Heap made it 23-21 with 2:13 left, but Delhomme made sure Baltimore never got the ball back.
The Panthers came in ranked last in the NFL on third-down conversions, yet they went 7-for-15 on Sunday.
“It’s always frustrating when the other team converts third downs,” Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We wanted to get off the field, but they kept making big plays. I give them a lot of credit.”
John Kasay kicked three field goals and the Panthers limited Baltimore to 80 yards rushing—the fourth straight game they held the opposition under 100 yards on the ground.
“That’s what we do. We’re going to stop the run and make a team one-dimensional,” safety Mike Minter said.
Boller entered after McNair was left woozy after being sacked by Mike Rucker and Chris Draft. Boller had been relegated to backup duty since the Ravens obtained McNair in an offseason trade with Tennessee, but on this day he was asked to win a game against a very tough Carolina defense.
“I had an opportunity to go out there and do some things but we came up short,” Boller said. “All I can do is go out there and give my best and try and move the ball.”
Boller went 17-for-31 for 226 yards. Two of his touchdown passes were deflections that Clayton turned into scores, the first of which gave Baltimore a 7-3 lead.
Delhomme answered with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Drew Carter to put Carolina ahead 10-7, and the Panthers never trailed after that.
Delhomme went 24-for-39 with two harmless interceptions. The first one ended his club-record run of 150 passes without being picked off.
But he was good enough to get 23 points, the most scored against Baltimore this season.
“We’ll win 90 percent of those,” Ravens linebacker Bart Scott said. “I don’t know if we had any breakdowns; they just make the plays.”
McNair went 2-for-4 for 4 yards and an interception. X-rays and CT scan on his neck, and an MRI on his head, were all negative.
Boller, who hadn’t thrown a touchdown pass since tossing three against Minnesota on Dec. 25, proved to be a capable replacement.
“He did a good job when he came in. He got them some points and moved the ball,” said Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers, who had a team-high eight tackles and two sacks.
Delhomme, however, was the only quarterback smiling after the game.
The loss ended Baltimore’s six-game home winning streak. … Ravens S Dawan Landry, who got his first career interception, left with a sprained knee ligament. … Carolina LB Thomas Davis left in the third quarter with bruised ribs. DT Al Wallace left in the fourth quarter with an arm injury.