BALTIMORE — The most surprising aspect of Steve Smith’s performance against the Carolina Panthers was that it didn’t include taunts or bluster.
Smith opted to punish the Panthers through his play on the field, and by the end of the afternoon, the 35-year-old receiver had made a definitive statement.
Smith burned his former team with seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Baltimore Ravens to a 38-10 victory Sunday.
Smith spent 13 seasons with Carolina before he was released during the offseason in a cost-cutting move. Proving he’s still got a knack for making the big play, Smith scored twice in the second quarter to help put Baltimore (3-1) in front 21-7 at halftime.
And he didn’t get in the face of the defender on either occasion.
“I didn’t have anything good, bad or indifferent to say. I just played. At the end of the day, honestly they didn’t deserve anything I had to say that would be derogatory — and I didn’t need to,” Smith said. “They didn’t even deserve me to spin the ball on them. I just caught it and put it down and went about my business.”
His first touchdown came on a pass that deflected off the right hand of teammate Owen Daniels. Smith caught the ball in stride and took it into the end zone to complete a 61-yard play.
Nothing the Panthers haven’t seen before.
“He did some really good things,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “And that’s who Steve is.”
Smith also scored from 21 yards out with a diving reception. He celebrated in dignified fashion, taking the ball with him to the sideline for safekeeping.
Before the game, it was evident to Ravens coach John Harbaugh that Smith was going to keep his yapping to a minimum.
“He recognized the gravity of the situation,” Harbaugh said, “the need to get control of those emotions.”
It was also a huge day for Joe Flacco, went 22 of 31 for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
Carolina (2-2) has lost two straight, both in lopsided fashion against AFC North foes.
Cam Newton completed 14 of 25 passes for 197 yards. Under duress for much of the afternoon, he was sacked twice.
Newton received little help from a running game that was without leading rusher Jonathan Stewart (knee), and DeAngelo Williams left in the second quarter with an ankle injury.
Carolina’s defense was also spotty. One week after yielding 264 yards rushing in a loss to Pittsburgh, the Panthers gave up 454 yards of offense and 25 first downs.
Worse, the Panthers lost a fumble, didn’t force a turnover and were penalized seven times — twice for having 12 men on the field.
“Apparently we’ve got to look at what we’re doing and make sure it gets corrected,” Rivera said. “We’ve got to find answers and we’ve got to do it quickly.”
Flacco led four drives of 80 yards, all of them resulting in touchdowns. Justin Forsett ran for 68 yards, backup Lorenzo Taliaferro gained 58, and each scored.
The Panthers held the ball for nearly eight minutes on the opening possession and drove to the Baltimore 17 before a penalty and sack took them out of field goal range.
After that, neither team got close to scoring until Smith caught the deflection to put the Ravens up 7-0 early in the second quarter. After the score, he took a bow in the end zone, ran off the field and heaved the ball into the stands.
Carolina tied it with an 80-yard drive, capped by Newton’s 28-yard pass to wide-open rookie Kelvin Benjamin in the front left corner of the end zone.
Baltimore quickly responded. Flacco threw for 39 yards and Forsett ran for 41, capping it with an 11-yard touchdown for a 14-7 lead.
After the Panthers went three-and-out for the first time, Smith got his second touchdown despite being harassed by cornerback Melvin White, who was called for pass interference. What made the score even more special was that Flacco fumbled the snap, scooped up the ball and lofted a floater that found its mark in the end zone.
Torrey Smith’s first touchdown of the year, on a 24-yard catch, made it 28-7 in the third quarter.
Baltimore clinched it with a 12-play drive for a 35-10 lead with 11:34 remaining. Flacco went 5 for 5 for 56 yards on the possession, twice hitting Steve Smith.
Afterward, someone asked the veteran receiver how he planned to mark the occasion.
“Watch a few highlights, eat a little apple pie, move on,” he replied.