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BALTIMORE – Certainly, the most attention-grabbing aspect of the Baltimore Ravens' third straight victory was the performance of Steve Smith against his former team.
The 35-year-old caught seven passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns Sunday to lead Baltimore past the Carolina Panthers 38-10.
Less noticeable, yet far more important, was just how well the rest of the Ravens played in the unexpected blowout.
Baltimore (3-1) amassed 454 yards, punted only once and had four 80-yard drives. Joe Flacco went 22 for 31 for 327 yards and wasn't sacked.
"Joe made some throws in hot situations where he converted some third downs and some guys got open and made some catches that were phenomenal," coach John Harbaugh said. "No turnovers, and this (Carolina) defense thrives on turnovers. Just four penalties says a lot about our guys and the way they're playing right now."
The Panthers (2-2) were penalized seven times, twice for having 12 men on the field, and that says a lot about the way they're playing right now.
"We had a lot of mistakes," said rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who scored Carolina's lone touchdown. "We have room for growing."
Cam Newton completed only 14 passes and the Panthers averaged 2.6 yards per rush in their second straight lopsided defeat.
"We have to get these things corrected," coach Ron Rivera said.
At least the Panthers won't see Smith again anytime soon. His touchdown catches of 61 of 21 yards provided the Ravens with a 21-7 lead at halftime.
Smith spent 13 seasons with Carolina before he was released during the offseason in a cost-cutting move. He said after the game that he's currently in a better place — because the Ravens have won two Super Bowls and Carolina is still striving for its first championship.
"They understand. They know," Smith said of the Ravens. "They have the recipe. It's says a lot without even saying anything, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to come here."
Some things we learned about the Ravens and Panthers:
SACK FREE: The Ravens started rookie James Hurst at left tackle in place of the injured Eugene Monroe, and there was no drop-off in production.
For the third straight week, Baltimore did not allow a sack.
"I think we've got a little streak going here," Harbaugh said.
Asked how he thought Hurst played, the coach replied, "Well, I didn't notice him so that must be a good thing. I can't wait to see it on tape, but it seemed like he played well."
GROUND UP: A week after giving up 264 rushing yards to Pittsburgh, the Panthers allowed 127 yards on the ground against the Ravens.
Justin Forsett led Baltimore with 66 yards and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro added 58, with each rushing for a score.
"They ran the ball well," Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly said. "The last two weeks we didn't play very well against the rush. We've just got to do a better job in that aspect of the game."
Said Rivera: "We have to find answers, and we have to do it quickly."
BACKFIELD BLUES: The Panthers played without injured running back Jonathan Stewart, and backup DeAngelo Williams injured his ankle and hobbled off the field in the second quarter.
Fullback Richie Brockel also left with an ankle injury.
Thus, the Panthers finished with 67 yards rushing on 26 attempts.
"We're playing with two undrafted free agents right now at running back," Rivera lamented. "As of right now, Darrin Reaves is our starter."
Reaves, a 21-year-old out of Alabama-Birmingham, gained 26 yards on 12 carries.
THE OTHER SMITH: Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith finally scored his first touchdown of the season, on a 24-yard catch that made it 28-7 in the third quarter.
"It felt good. More importantly, it felt good to contribute to a win rather than not having it and we lose," he said. "It felt kind of like breaking the ice, and I look forward to more."
Torrey Smith finished with two catches for 53 yards, but also attracted several pass interference calls.
"If those counted as points," he said, "we probably would have won by 100."
EARLY EXIT: Newton was pulled in the fourth quarter with the outcome no longer in doubt.
By that time, he had already taken a beating. In addition to being sacked twice, he was hit in and out of the pocket for much of the afternoon.
"I'm doing fine," he said. "I could have finished this game, but the situation dictated that I come out and I don't have a problem with that."
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