Three things we learned in a disappointing, 33-30, home loss by the Patriots to the Panthers.
1. Kicked aside — Carolina Panthers kicker Graham Gano was the hero on the day, kicking a game-winning, 48-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Panthers a 33-30 victory over the New England Patriots Sunday at Gillette Stadium. But it was Gano, himself, who had helped put the Panthers in the position of needing the last-second win, missing an extra point earlier in the game, a score that loomed large when the Patriots tied the game at 30 in the fourth quarter, needing Stephen Gostkowski only to nail he extra point rather than go for two. Speaking of Gostkowski, the New England kicker also came up large in the loss for the Patriots, nailing a career-long, 58-yard field goal at the end of the first half. At the time, that field goal had helped the Patriots look at only a one-point deficit. Gostkowski was perfect (three field goals, three extra points) on the day, which is a word that nobody is using to describe the horrific Patriots defense thus far this season.
2. Another ‘F’ for the ‘D’ — After failing to figure out Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson during a victory over Houston last Sunday, some Patriots defenders alluded to the fact that they would be welcoming a similar, mobile foe behind center this weekend in Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Except the New England defense, which came into Sunday’s game ranked as the worst in the entire NFL, instead made Newton’s line on the day (316 yards and three touchdowns passing; 44 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown), look like something out of Madden ’17. Newton was relentless in roasting whatever defensive back the Patriots managed to try and put in his way, making Stephon Gilmore into a regional laughingstock even before the cornerback’s pair of ill-timed penalties that both gave the Panthers critical life at opportune moments. When Eric Rowe wasn’t getting used, he was exiting with a groin injury, and hough Malcolm Butler came up with his first interception of the season (tossed right to him by Newton), it’s clear that the former Super Bowl hero isn’t anywhere near the level he needs to be either. The Panthers put up 444 total yards of offense up on New England, including 140 rushing, Heck, Panthers punter Michael Palardy didn’t even make his first appearance on the field until there was 7:37 remaining in the fourth, which just so happened to be the first three-and-out for either team to that point. Whether it’s the personnel, or Matt Patricia’s inability to scheme a more comprehensive game plan, the Patriots’ defense remains atrocious with a short week ahead of it.
3. Wash. Rinse…. — You’d have to figure at some point that Tom Brady’s mystical jar of comeback charges might run out, particularly after dipping into that stash just last weekend against the Houston Texans. Alas, another comeback led by the 40-year-old arm of Tom Brady was wasted with the Patriots dropping their second of three games this season at home this season, a situation that would have been considered a foolhardy suggestion coming into the season. Brady threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which found Danny Amendola in the end zone to bring the Pats within one. Dion Lewis, who had been mentioned in the whispers of the team’s underachievers this season, scampered in with his own score to lead the Patriots on their come backing ways. The defense is going to rightfully get all the headlines this week. It’s terrible. But otherwise, the Patriots have proven themselves to remain a pretty damned thrilling entry in the NFL.