Miscommunication in Ravens secondary leads to easy touchdown for Panthers
By AARON WILSON and
The Baltimore Sun|
Sep 28, 2014 | 9:07 PM
It probably wouldn't have made a difference even if Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had not delivered a strike to the left corner of the end zone.
No one from the Ravens' secondary was in position to challenge the pass Sunday as Newton hit rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for a 28-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Free safety Darian Stewart reacted far too late after cornerback Jimmy Smith had the initial coverage on Benjamin and released him to Stewart.
For the second consecutive game, the Ravens had a botched coverage because of a mix-up in coverage responsibilities. The Ravens were in a standard Cover-2 scheme where Smith was supposed to shadow Benjamin with Stewart then providing deep help, Smith said.
"We busted the simplest coverage you can bust," Smith said. "We didn't play it the way we were supposed to be and they got an easy one on us. Basic Cover 2, Darian's deep, I'm short. We didn't play it the right way."
The game-tying score didn't prevent the Ravens from winning the game as they went on to a 38-10 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
"We literally couldn't have busted the coverage any worse," Smith said. "It was so simple that we just couldn't believe it happened, but we got back and we fixed it. We've just got to keep not letting things happen like that."
During a 23-21 win over the Cleveland Browns a week ago, safety Matt Elam bit on a play-action fake and failed to transition quickly to deep coverage as cornerback Asa Jackson released wide receiver Taylor Gabriel to him. Jackson said he should have stayed with Gabriel on a 70-yard reception.
This appeared to be a similar error.
"We had the one touchdown pass early that was just misplayed," coach John Harbaugh said. "We played the coverage wrong, and that was disappointing. Hopefully, we'll get out of one of these and we don't give up any of those types of passes. Jimmy did a really nice job on Benjamin."
A first-round draft pick out of Florida State, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Benjamin finished with five receptions for 76 yards on nine targets.
After catching just six passes for 85 yards during the first three games, Smith's score marked his first touchdown in seven games dating back to a Nov. 28 game last season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"You all [reporters] make too much out of everything," Smith said with a laugh. "No, it's high expectations and that's how the ball goes sometimes."
Despite a knee injury that prevented him from practicing all week, veteran defensive end Chris Canty started.
"Yeah, I had to gut it out," Canty said. "I understood the importance of this game. I didn't want to let my teammates down and I felt like I could go out and perform at my best. We had a plan and we stuck to it and I was able to help our football team get a win."
Meanwhile, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs didn't finish the game due to a pre-existing groin injury. Suggs downplayed the severity of the injury.
"I'm going to be all right," Suggs said. "It was nothing big. We were up, so we just pulled it."
Reserve cornerback Chykie Brown left the game in pain, but said it was a minor nerve issue in his upper body.
"I'm fine," Brown said. "The pain already went away."
In a raucous halftime ceremony that drew the familiar "Heeeap!" chants from fans, retired tight end Todd Heap was inducted into the Ravens' Ring of Honor .
"From one tight end to another tight end, welcome to the Ring of Honor," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said.
Heap ranks first in franchise history with 41 touchdown catches and second overall with 467 receptions and 5,492 receiving yards.
"It's all about family," Heap said. "From Day One, you have welcomed my wife and I, our family, into our community, this city. For that, we'll be forever grateful."
Ravens backup linebacker Albert McClellan got into a confrontation with Dwan Edwards during a punt in the first half.
McClellan ripped off the former Ravens defensive end's helmet and was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
"At the end of the day, your character is the way you play on the field and it reflects who you are," McClellan said. "We both got heated in the battle."
Cornerback Lardarius Webb was scratched because of a lingering lower-back injury. Webb played just four snaps against the Browns in his first game of the season before being pulled.
Webb is healthy, according to a source, and has experienced no setbacks, but has to regain strength, flexibility and mobility after such a long period of inactivity.
The Ravens want to give it another shot later, possibly as soon as next week if Webb's back responds.
The Ravens scratched rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (meniscus) and left tackle Eugene Monroe (arthroscopic knee surgery). Monroe could be out for as long as a month, according to a source. The Ravens also deactivated rookie wide receiver Michael Campanaro (River Hill), linebacker Arthur Brown, rookie guard John Urschel and new defensive lineman Lawrence Guy. … Nose tackle Brandon Williams recovered a fumble forced by middle linebacker Daryl Smith in the fourth quarter. "I got through the double-team, saw the ball and said, 'I got to have it.' I landed on it. It was the perfect storm."