CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With Joe Flacco nearly perfect and Baltimore's defense as ferocious as ever, the Ravens appear ready for the regular season.
The Carolina Panthers can only hope their injured players return quickly to shore up problems on both sides of the ball.
Flacco proved too much for the poor-tackling Panthers on Saturday, throwing for 247 yards and a touchdown in a 17-13 victory that included another dominant outing by the Ravens' stingy defense.
The third exhibition game, where both teams played their starters into the third quarter, proved one-sided. The Panthers, playing without their top two running backs and three starters on defense, were overwhelmed early by Flacco, who completed 23 of 28 passes.
"We were in a groove," Flacco said.
The second-year quarterback directed first-half touchdown drives of 80 and 90 yards. He showed poise in the pocket the few times he was pressured, dumping balls to running back Ray Rice and tight end Todd Heap, who caught the go-ahead 9-yard TD early in the second quarter.
"Everybody was making plays, and I feel like we're heading right where we want to be," Heap said.
Not so for the Panthers. While Jake Delhomme didn't throw an interception in his first home appearance since committing six turnovers in a playoff loss to Arizona, the first team failed to reach the end zone.
Delhomme did connect twice with Steve Smith for 37 yards in Smith's first preseason action since bruising his shoulder. Delhomme finished 11-of-16 for 180 yards, with 48 coming against the Ravens' second-stringers.
"We did some decent things but still they're a very good defense," Delhomme said.
With Williams resting a sore knee and Stewart sidelined with an Achilles' tendon injury, rookie Mike Goodson got the start. He was greeted by Ray Lewis for a 2-yard loss on the Panthers' first possession.
The Ravens' first-team defense was done for the night after Jarrett Johnson sacked Delhomme in a three-and-out to start the third quarter.
"That's what's most exciting, the way we are clicking both offensively and defensively," Lewis said. "The bottom line is everyone is lining up and playing fast. We're all playing well right now."
Delhomme completed a 38-yard pass to Muhsin Muhammad late in the third quarter against the Ravens' reserves. Goodson had 11 carries for 52 yards for Carolina, which was greeted with cheers in its first home game since its playoff debacle.
Defensive end Julius Peppers was warmly received after declaring in the offseason he wanted to play elsewhere. But Peppers was credited with only one tackle while matched up sometimes with Ravens rookie tackle Michael Oher.
The Panthers defense, which gave up 30 or more points in five of the final seven games last season, was without linebackers Jon Beason (knee) and Thomas Davis (knee) and safety Charles Godfrey (hand).
While much of Carolina's preseason has focused on improving the run defense following Maake Kemoeatu's season-ending Achilles' tendon injury, Flacco exposed Carolina's secondary.
With Mark Clayton (hamstring) still out, Washington made his second straight start and caught a 17-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage. He later beat top Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble on a 42-yard catch.
Gamble had a missed tackle on Mason's 26-yard catch that set up Willis McGahee's 1-yard TD run that put Baltimore ahead 14-3 at halftime.
"Tackling was horrible tonight," said Beason, who hopes to be ready for the opener. "I think we've got to do a better job in our man-to-man coverage."
Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, on the mend from a heart transplant, watched from his luxury suite. ... Steve Hauschka, who had moved ahead of rookie Graham Gano for Baltimore's PK job, missed a 27-yard FG attempt before making a 38-yarder. Coach John Harbaugh said he won't decide on the job until after the final preseason game. ... Ravens backup Troy Smith was intercepted by Dante Wesley. ... Kenny Moore was used as Carolina's No. 3 WR in the first half ahead of Dwayne Jarrett.
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