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Ravens tame Panthers, 37-13

Joe Flacco delivered his first 300-yard game of the season as the Ravens overcame a sloppy effort to defeat the outclassed Carolina Panthers, 37-13, on Sunday.

Criticized for their slow starts on the road this season, the Ravens scored on three of their first four drives and never let up at Bank of America Stadium, which appeared nearly half full of Ravens fans.

Criticized for their inability to finish games, the Ravens' defense closed out the game by returning two interceptions for touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Ed Reed intercepted a fourth-quarter pass and made a long lateral to Dawan Landry for one touchdown and linebacker Ray Lewis provided another only seconds later.

That was enough to propel the Ravens despite the offense going into a second-half lull and their defense gave up an 88-yard touchdown pass (second-longest completion against the Ravens in team history) from journeyman quarterback Brian St. Pierre.

The Ravens (7-3) won for the third time in four games to remain tied atop the AFC North with the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3), who routed the Oakland Raiders.

After Carolina's disastrous opening possession of the game (two of three plays for negative yards), Flacco threw a 56-yard touchdown to T.J. Houshmandzadeh on his first pass of the game. Houshmandzadeh ran past two Carolina defenders to get open for his first touchdown since the game-winner at Pittsburgh seven weeks ago.

Big plays punctuated the Ravens' second drive, where Flacco hit Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for 23-yard passes. That set up a 22-yard field goal for Billy Cundiff.

Flacco had a perfect quarterback rating after the first quarter of play, completing all seven of his passes for 120 yards and one touchdown.

After the Panthers hit a long field goal and the Ravens fumbled in the red zone (Flacco and Ray Rice miscommunicated on the handoff), Flacco once gain moved the offense down the field with some deep throws. He connected with Todd Heap for a 26-yarder and then converted a third-and-16 by finding a wide-open Ray Rice for an 18-yard completion. Rice finished off the drive by walking in a 1-yard touchdown, staking the Ravens to a 17-3 lead.

Rookie kickoff returner David Reed kept the momentum on the Ravens' side by taking the opening kickoff of the second half 84 yards to the Carolina 18-yard line. Cundiff's 33-yard field goal increased the Ravens' advantage to 20-3.

The margin could have been worse if the Ravens held onto the ball better. The Ravens fumbled twice in the first half, including their second one in the red zone this season.

The Ravens play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 4:15 p.m. game at M&T; Bank Stadium next Sunday.

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