MIKE PRE­STON’S KEY MATCHUPS

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Martin­dale has di­aled up well-de­signed blitzes and pres­sure pack­ages this sea­son. But New­ton is dif­fer­ent from any other quar­ter­back the Ravens have faced. He is big and ag­ile, and can makes plays by de­sign or by im­pro­vis­ing to es­cape the pocket. New­ton has thrown for 1,427 yards, and run for 257 yards on 52 car­ries. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how the Ravens try to con­tain him and if they use a “spy” on third-down pass­ing sit­u­a­tions.

Carolina has a tough, phys­i­cal trio that con­trols the mid­dle. Kuechly is of­ten men­tioned as one of the best mid­dle lineback­ers in the game, and Davis is the vet­eran who al­ways seems to come up with a big play. Thomp­son is se­cond on the team in tack­les with 35 be­hind Kuechly’s 52. The Ravens lack ex­pe­ri­ence, and strength and size give the Pan­thers an ad­van­tage.

To slow the Pan­thers of­fense, the Ravens must con­tain New­ton and then McCaf­frey. The lat­ter is an all-pur­pose back, with 378 yards on 78 car­ries, and he also leads the team in re­ceiv­ing with 40 catches for 269 yards. Mosley will have to be strong in­side be­cause the Pan­thers will try to es­tab­lish the run, a ma­jor sta­ple of the of­fense. But on pass­ing sit­u­a­tions McCaf­frey might be too much for all three.

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