Here are seven of the thoughts bouncing around my mind after the Ravens dominated the Panthers:
1. Sunday's victory over the Panthers was a snoozer -- in case you switched channels at halftime, the Ravens won, 37-13 -- and the lack of excitement was probably a good thing considering the Ravens' recent adventures when attempting to escape the fourth quarter. It was a perfect opportunity for fans to catch up on some reading or get chores done around the house before being treated to a thrilling 11-second stretch in the final quarter that iced the game. (After a pair of picks, the Ravens defenders got two chances to show off their dance moves in the Panthers' end zone.) Other than that, there wasn't much to see here.
2. Expect there to be talk this week about how the struggles of the Ravens defense were exaggerated. The Ravens scored their first two defensive touchdowns of the season on fourth-quarter interceptions by Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. And they should rise in the rankings after allowing 13 points and 270 total yards against the Panthers. Let's be honest, though: The Panthers are atrocious. I need to see a performance like that against an NFL-caliber offense before I can say for sure that the Ravens defense has its swagger back.
3. Why am I not convinced? Fourth-string running back Mike Goodson ran wild against the Ravens, picking up 120 yards on 22 carries -- that's 5.5 yards a pop. But hey, Goodman might be the best fourth-string running back the Ravens face all season.
4. It looks like Panthers quarterback Brian St. Pierre learned from watching a young Kyle Boller during his one-year stint with the Ravens back in 2005 -- little nuggets such as rolling out then chucking the ball out of bounds or completing passes to the other team. But it wasn't St. Pierre's fault the Panthers decided to start an overmatched journeyman instead of an inexperienced rookie at quarterback. I'm not sure what John Fox was thinking there. He was screwed either way, I guess.
5. As well as Joe Flacco has played over the past two months, can you believe that Sunday was the first time in 2010 he topped 300 passing yards in a game? Flacco targeted nine receivers on the afternoon, completing 24 of his 33 passes for 301 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens offensive line gave him plenty of time to scan the field, but when blocking broke down, his pocket presence was impressive. It was Roethlisberger-esque when Flacco shrugged Panthers linebacker James Anderson off his back before completing a pass in the second quarter.
6. One more compliment for Flacco: Excellent throw on that 56-yard touchdown bomb to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. That's how you're supposed to lead a wide-open receiver on the deep ball.
7. Ravens running back Ray Rice finished with 131 total yards and a touchdown because the Panthers let him run free as a receiver, but he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. The Ravens never let Rice get into a rhythm against one of the NFL's worst run defenses (he had four carries midway through the second quarter). The Ravens' progress in the passing game has been promising, but they need to get Rice and his fellow running backs rolling for the playoff run. Those guys will be needed, too.