By: Tom Cloutier
4th quarter heroics are not enough as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots lose to the Carolina Panthers.
It has been clear since the Chiefs’ 42-27 drubbing of the Patriots to kickoff the season that New England’s defense would be their Achilles heel this season. They bounced back well in a week 2 victory over the Saints and future hall of fame quarterback, Drew Brees, but proceeded to allow rookie Texans QB, Deshaun Watson, to run and throw the ball for a total of 342 yards and allowed 33 points. Only a late drive at the end of the 4th quarter by comeback king Tom Brady prevented a loss against the Texans. The Patriots managed to eke out a victory last week, but couldn’t do it again this week against the Panthers.
The entire first half was a back and forth between New England and Carolina as the exchanged the ball and scores several times until the score line was one point in the Panthers favor at halftime. New England opened up the scoring with a field goal, which Caroline quickly matched. The Patriots punted on their next drive, but Newton turned the ball back over by underthrowing the ball to a double covered Damien Byrd and into the hands of Malcolm Butler. The proceeding drive ended with Brady finding Chris Hogan in the back of the end zone for the first touchdown of the day.
After a few plays by the Panthers, New England’s first defensive meltdown was witnessed when a screen pass to Panthers’ running back, Fozzy Whitaker allowed him to run, untouched, 20 yards for a touchdown. The Patriots response was underwhelming as Brady was sacked after New England received the ball back. A long pass to Gronk down the sideline saw them gain 43 yards, but it amounted to little. On the next play Brady dumped to ball of to James White for a loss of 2. His next throw was nearly intercepted at goal line and the following was a low throw to Hogan for an incompletion and they had to settle for a 35 yard FG. New England’s defense took the field again and was utterly exposed by Cam Newton. After a reception by Devin Funchess and a run by Christian McCaffrey, Newton found a wide open Kelvin Benjamin for a 43 yard gain. Benjamin’s route had him run across the field and no New England defensive back stayed with him or picked him up. On the next play Devin Funchess was the one left completely unmarked once he moved across the line of scrimmage prior to the snap. Newton easily found him in the end zone to go up 17-13. All New England could do was manage another field goal before they went into the locker room at the half down 17-16.
The third quarter was all Carolina as Newton continued to pick apart the Patriots defense. After the first drive resulted in a punt, Newton looked like his superman self of years passed recording a touchdown pass on the next two drives to put the Panthers up 30-16 in front of a stunned New England crowd at Gillette Stadium. The faith in our lord and savior, Tom Brady, remained and Brady took over the offense, attempting to inject some life into the team. After a couple run plays brought New England to a 4th and 2, they decided to go for it and converted on a 13 yard pass to Gronk. It was the first successful 4th down conversion for the Patriots this season after failing on two other attempts. Brady connected with an open Dorsett for 19 yards down the sideline and then handed the ball off to Dion Lewis for the touchdown.
For a few shining moments, New England’s defense looked good as they came in clutch to force their first 3 and out of the day including a sack. The Patriots started their final drive at half field and Brady connected with some of his favorite targets, Cooks and Gronk and Amendola, who got hit by a truck but still managed to hold onto the ball to get a first down. Brady sent another ball to Cooks for a four yard gain before being forced, once again into a fourth down situation. New England elected to go for it, once again, and a calm, cool, and collected Brady found Amendola for the touchdown after the o-line managed to hold off the defense for what seemed like an eternity. Unfortunately, too much time was left on the clock for the Panthers and the defense couldn’t hold them back for long enough. The Carolina run game got them into field goal range and Graham Gano kicked a 48 yard dagger in the hearts of New England Fans.
The Patriots fell to 2-2 for the first time since 2015, but we all remember how that season ended.
Image Source: (Sporting News) (Sole Collector)