For most of Sunday’s win over Baltimore, the Carolina Panthers found themselves in unfamiliar territory—in the lead.
“Man, it’s a whole lot different,” said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. “We like when we have the lead.”
The Panthers scored on four straight first-half possessions, including a 99-yard touchdown drive, and cruised to a 36-21 win over the Ravens in what many players called the team’s most complete game of the year.
The mood was decidedly different than the last two weeks, when Carolina fell behind 17-0 in road games against Washington and Philadelphia. The Panthers managed to come back and beat the Eagles but fell just short against Washington.
This week, Carolina put things away early.
“We were feeding off the energy from last week,” defensive back Donte Jackson said. “Going into someone else’s house and coming back like that, it was only right to come back home and feed off that momentum. It felt great. Everything was working for us. The offense was playing magical. We were out there flying around on defense.”
After the Ravens scored on the game’s first possession, the Panthers downed a punt on the one-yard line. After bottling up Baltimore, Carolina used the good field position to set up a game-tying touchdown run from 11 yards out by Christian McCaffery late in the first quarter.
“It started with the defense and special teams,” Newton said. “We got great field position with a good spot on that punt.”
Then it was the defense’s turn.
Carolina got the ball right back when Kyle Love forced a fumble on a sack that was recovered at the 12-yard line by Vernon Butler. The Panthers added two interceptions later in the game.
“We got that big turnover for the offense, to put them in scoring position,” said Munnerlyn.
Three plays later, Newton found tight end Greg Olsen for an 11-yard touchdown.
When the Ravens were able to make a special teams play of their own, pinning the Panthers on their own one-yard line on a punt, the offense took its turn in the spotlight.
Newton completed five passes for 56 yards, and receiver D.J. Moore ran twice for 39 yards as the Panthers marched down the field on a 10-play, 6:03 drive to go up 21-7.
There was no looking back from there.
“I feel like we played really well,” Munnerlyn said. “We forced turnovers. The offense scored. Special teams took care of business.
The Panthers had their big day against a Ravens defense that entered Sunday ranked No. 1 in the NFL, a fact of which the Carolina D was well aware.
“It fueled us a little bit,” safety Mike Adams said. I ain’t lying. We respected them, because they’ve been playing good ball, be we have too. It fueled us, because we wanted to go out there and be the No. 1 defense today.”
The Panthers were the better team in all three areas on Sunday.