Panthers score 4 TDs on returns, beat Ravens 34-27
BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens were guilty of an abundance of mistakes, and the Carolina Panthers were only too happy to take advantage of the miscues.
Ted Ginn Jr. returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown, and the Carolina defense scored three times in a 34-27 preseason victory Thursday night.
Drayton Florence took an interception 71 yards into the end zone, Thomas Davis scored on a 2-yard fumble return and linebacker Luke Kuechly picked off another of Joe Flacco' passes late in the second quarter to set up a 54-yard field goal by Graham Gano for a 24-7 lead.
Carolina (2-1) had only 67 yards in offense before halftime, yet reeled off 24 straight points after Baltimore (2-1) scored on its first possession.
Late in the third quarter, D.J. Moore intercepted a pass by Tyrod Taylor and ran 31 yards for a touchdown to make it 34-17.
Flacco, the Super Bowl MVP, played into the third quarter and went 18 for 24 for 169 yards and a touchdown. In three preseason games, he has two TD passes and three interceptions.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton completed 10 of 19 passes for 99 yards.
Carolina lost backup receiver Kealoha Pilares in the first quarter because of a knee injury and guard Amini Silatolu left in the second quarter with a leg injury. Also, running back Kenjon Barner was sidelined by a foot injury.
Baltimore's opening drive was a display of precision. Flacco went 5 for 5 for 45 yards, connecting with three receivers during a nine-play, 69-yard march that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice.
"We opened the game the way we want to play and know how we can play," Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said at halftime. "We were crisp, we were fast and we were in rhythm."
The next time, though, Flacco missed on three straight passes to set up a punt. Ginn eluded the first wave of tacklers, broke up the middle and held the ball aloft at around the 20 with punter Sam Koch in futile pursuit.
That enabled the Panthers to get out of the first quarter in a tie at 7 despite making only one first down and 38 yards on nine plays.
Early in the second quarter, Flacco was attempting to convert a third-and-10 when Florence intercepted the pass and took it down the right sideline for a touchdown.
After the kickoff, Bernard Pierce fumbled when hit by Kuechly. Davis pounced on the ball and rolled into the end zone for a 21-7 lead.
Three turnovers and poor punt coverage offset all the positives for the defending champions.
"When you turn it over and give up a special teams touchdown, you get in a big hole," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We have to protect the ball better."
Flacco produced 10 points in the third quarter. After engineering a 48-yard drive that ended with a field goal, Flacco tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to rookie Marlon Brown.
But Flacco was far from satisfied with the performance of the first-team offense.
"We obviously turned the ball over, and you lose more games than you win in this league when you do that," he said. "With what we did tonight, we're not going to win a lot of football games."
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