CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Ravens' toughest opposition today at Ericsson Stadium won't be in the Carolina Panthers' uniforms, but in the Ravens' helmets.
The Ravens (4-10) are 0-7 away from home and the franchise has dropped 11 straight road games, dating to the Cleveland Browns' 29-26 overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 29, 1995. The Panthers (10-4) are 6-0 at their new stadium this season.
The Ravens say it's time to stop playing head games.
"Over the years they keep telling you it's hard to go into someone else's home and beat them because of the fans and the other team has the knowledge about the field," Ravens wide receiver Michael Jackson said. "I really don't believe in that. Their fans are like our fans and their field is like our field.
"It's a mental thing. It's like learned behavior. You hear how tough it is all the way up from high school to college to the pros, and then you start believing it. You can go into someone else's house and win."
Well, something is not going right on the road for the Ravens. They have been outscored 220-146, even though their play improved after consecutive road blowouts to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Oilers early in the season.
"To win championships, you have to win on the road regardless of where you play or who you play," Ravens reserve safety Vashone Adams said. "When you're a young team, you're going to have a lot more communication problems on the road, and we've had our share. But the more experience you get, the better your chances. We're very much aware of our losing streak."
The Ravens are also aware of Carolina's defense, which is ranked 10th overall in the league, fourth against the rush and 15th against the pass. The Ravens' biggest problem may be containing the Panthers' pass rush. Outside linebackers Kevin Greene and Lamar Lathon have combined for 26 sacks. If the Ravens can neutralize those two, they can make a game of it because the secondary is allowing 208.1 passing yards per game.
"We haven't seen a weak spot in their defense," Ravens running back Bam Morris said. "They have a lot of good veteran players on defense, and with Dom Capers running it, we've got to make the right calls and execute them. We've got a pretty good game plan."
Capers said: "When I look at the Ravens on offense, it's very concerning to me. They have a big, physical offensive line and they've got Bam Morris running behind them. They've got two big, physical receivers, and I'm concerned about how they move the ball up and down the field. You look at the games they've played, all of the three-point games, the overtime games, they've been in battles with everybody. We've got a lot of respect for the Ravens."
Offensively, the Panthers scored 30 points in beating the San Francisco 49ers last week, but this has not been an explosive unit. Carolina has struggled with the pass, but produced with the run. The Panthers are averaging 112.0 rushing yards, led by Anthony Johnson with 971 yards.
Quarterback Kerry Collins has been hurt and inconsistent, but he goes against a Ravens defense that is allowing 370.6 yards a game, including 247.6 passing. The Ravens' secondary will be at full strength, but the linebacking unit will be suspect.
Starting inside linebacker Mike Caldwell (knee) is not expected to play, and rookie Ray Lewis, the team's other starting inside linebacker, has been slowed by a hip pointer. If Lewis goes down, the Ravens would have to move starting outside linebacker Keith Goganious inside and start one of two rookies on the outside, Sedric Clark or Dexter Daniels.
"Losing these close games like we've had, being out of the playoffs, this is a tough time for all of us," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "But I don't see any quit in our players. We have two more games to grab a win.
"Carolina went to San Francisco needing a win to get into the playoffs and contend for their division title, and they did it. That says a lot about that team. They are good, sound and they play hard.
"The young quarterback [Collins] is making plays. They're getting great running from Anthony Johnson, and they spread the ball to all of their receivers well. It will be a challenge."
Ravens (4-10) at Panthers (10-4)
Site: ericsson Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Time: 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9)
Line: Panthers by 8
Pub Date: 12/15/96