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Patriots vs. Panthers: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 24-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Grant Halverson
Son of a...

I was up late last night, I'm tired, I'm cranky, the Patriots just lost an absolute heartbreaker against the Panthers, and I don't even have time to stew properly because this was a Monday night game and Denver is coming up in five short days. So let's just get to it so I can get as much sulking as possible in before we all have to turn the page and Brady vs. Manning Part Eleventy Billion gets crammed down our collective throats.
  • Steve Smith doesn't get enough credit as one of the elite receivers in this league. Like Larry Fitzgerald, he played without a quarterback for a lot of his career and has still managed to produce. He has been in the league, with the same team, for 14 years and the only negative thing anyone ever says about him is that he's incredibly passionate. I had absolutely no idea he was such an arrogant jackass, but he's a damn good receiver.
  • Amazingly, yesterday was the first time I ever watched Cam Newton play a full football game. I'm sure everyone is Carolina loves this kid, and he had a helluva game last night, but I don't know what his future holds. I will say that of all the QBs in the NFL who are able to run around and extend the play, he has the best chance at a very long career.
  • Gruden's keys to victory for Carolina: "Balance, Ball Control, Ball distribution." Ironically, those are also the keys to survival at the Rotary Club Ladies' Night.
  • My love for Nate Ebner is deep and well-documented. But when he takes the field as your dime safety, you know that your team has just gone from "decimated by injuries" to "oh crap, we're in trouble."
  • Tommy B countered the Carolina front seven with a lot of quick release throws off the quick-out route and power runs to keep the defense honest. On deep routes, there was always a short option open. Other than a sack that came off a miscommunication and a Stevan Ridley fumble that ultimately ended up costing the Patriots the game, he pretty much did whatever he wanted for most of the matchup.
  • Every time I see DeAngelo Williams run the ball, I can't help but think about how he was selected five spots later than Laurence Maroney.
  • Selected 39 spots after Maroney? Maurice Jones-Drew.
  • I guess Steve Smith and Aqib Talib don't like each other too much. Who knew?
  • Smith getting under Talib's skin was such a gamechanger I don't even know if I can do it justice by talking about it here. It took Talib completely out of his game, forced the Patriots to more or less abandon man coverage in favor of a zone, and (I believe) opened the door for Newton to make plays more using his legs. That initial roughing penalty on Talib may have been the most important play of the game.
  • I neither own an ugly holiday sweater nor have I ever attended an ugly sweater party. Is that one of those things I'm legally required to do as a white guy raised in the suburbs? if so, I better get on it.
  • Carolina as a team really likes to showboat, don't they?
  • Good to finally see Josh Boyce back there to wait for the inevitable touchback. If you're going to kneel on it in the end zone, make sure it's a guy that can kneel on it with some speed, I always say.
  • What concerned me most about the first few Carolina drives is that New England was unable to generate any pressure on Newton and how there were zero plays for negative yardage. Any quarterback with time is going to carve this depleted defense up, but a running QB with time is pretty much impossible to stop.
  • I was surprised by the relative lack of the no-huddle in this game. Granted, the offense was effective without it, but I figured it would be a great way to keep the Carolina defense on its heels. Odds are that the Patriots wanted to take as much time off the clock as possible, considering the defense couldn't really do much to stop the Panthers offense.
  • I heard a lot of old school boos coming from the Carolina crowd last night. Good for them, I say; a lot of times crowds are so busy getting as loud as they can that they forget to express their distaste the traditional way.
  • Being a defensive player in the NFL in the 2010s is freaking impossible. That is all.
  • Welp...that's the last we'll see of Stevan Ridley for a while.
  • For the record - and not just because I have Ridley on my fantasy team - I really don't agree with benching a back for fumbles. Granted, Ridley's fumble was huge, but you want to instill confidence in your players, and I don't see how benching a player after a mistake is how you instill that confidence.
  • However, THAT said...these are the kind of games where a guy like Blount should excel -single back power sets where running downhill is the way to go. Carolina is just too fast and agile on the front line to make too many cuts or wait for a hole to open up. And Blount ran the ball very well almost every single time he touched it - so why abandon that strategy?
  • Is there just a camera on Tommy B at all times on the off chance he does ANYTHING besides just sit there quietly?
  • I'm going to give the ESPN camera crew a solid D for last night's work. Horrible angles, lost the ball multiple times, shaky frames...come on, guys.
  • Is there anything worse than the touchdown/commercial/kickoff/touchback/commercial deathblow? Actually, yes: the touchdown/commercial/booth review/commercial/extra point/commercial/kickoff/touchback/commercial mega deathblow.
  • Has anyone out there ever gotten a car for Christmas with one of those big red bows on it? If so, can you tell me a bit about the experience in the comments section? Car companies are so committed to that gimmick, there has to be a reason for it.
  • And for the record: Maxwell the Geico pig is a jerk. Although if Ted's girlfriend is the kind of gal who would leave him over taking a long time to get an insurance quote, that hole in his windshield is the best thing that ever happened to him.
  • Michael Hoomanawanui i is hurt...on the plus side, this was a loss, so that means he won't be headed to IR.
  • And in case you were wondering, I have yet to spell Hoo-man's name right the first time since he became a Patriot. I struggled to spell "Gostkowski" for a while, but eventually got it; I'm significantly less confident about Hoo-man, though.
  • Charles Johnson is one of my favorite NFL players that nobody has heard of. Just one of those underrated, lunchpail guys in the vein of Tedy Bruschi who just comes in a makes plays with very little fanfare. Glad to see that his injury wasn't serious
  • What do you think it's like to be one of three or four defenders trying to bring down Rob Gronkowski as he barrels over you? These are big dudes who have spent most of their lives bowling over losers like me.
  • Tommy B giving high elbows instead of high fives after the Gronk TD. Can't wait to hear all about that this week.
  • The MO of the 2010-2012 Patriots defense was to give up yards at will between the 20s, stiffen up in the red zone while generating turnovers. The MO of the 2013 Patriots defense is to get hurt, make opposing teams' WR2s look like WR1s, and hopefully generate turnovers.
  • That Cam Newton 1st down conversion on 3rd and 7 was amazing. Just pure athleticism and skill and it was a thing of beauty. I'm not too much of a homer to acknowledge a great play when I see one. I don't have to like it, but that was sweet.
  • Listening to Gruden try to throw one of his patented love-fests for Chris Jones and Joe Vellano was both hysterical and depressing at the same time.
  • I was expecting Rob Ninkovich to be more of an impact player last night in a spy role and as a contain edge rusher. But he was a relative nonfactor for most of the game.
  • Talib, I love ya, but you got absolutely owned last night. I'm talking wedgie over the head, face in the toilet, double purple nurple, full on Swirlie owned. I know you're just back from extended time off and you were rusty and everything, but that was rough. Smith got in your head, stayed there, and completely threw you off your game. I'd even go so far as to say you got straight up pwned. Learn from it, deal with it, channel the anger, and don't let it happen again.
  • This may be a sign of me getting older - but every time I see a Cialis commercial, I think the same thing: if I'm ever in a situation where I'm chilling in an outdoor bathtub looking out over a beautiful tropical sunset, my erectile dysfunction will be the last thing on my mind. I'm going to want a drink with an umbrella in it and a nap, in that order.
  • I'd like to think that Bob Kraft only has one pink tie and he wears the same one to every single Pats game - a lucky tie of sorts - but I think the odds are good that he has a closet full of nothing but pink ties that is significantly bigger than my entire apartment.
  • Ryan Allen looks like Anthony Michael Hall from The Breakfast Club. I'm guessing that there are a fair number of Pulpiteers who have never even heard of that movie. Dammit.
  • It became pretty clear, as the game went on, that whoever had the ball last was going to win it. When New England wasn't able to convert on 3rd and 1 and had to (barely) settle for three deep in Carolina territory, I started to get worried. I personally wish the team had gone for it on 4th and 1 and tried to get a touchdown there. That Carolina was going to march down the field and score after that field goal was obvious to pretty much everyone, and the way the offense was working, I felt pretty confident that they would be able to punch it in.
  • You could visibly see Carolina's confidence on that game-winning drive. Nobody on that offense looked worried, there was no sense of urgency, and the vibe on the field was that it was just a matter of time before they scored a touchdown.
  • A defensive holding call on McCourty certainly didn't help matters.
  • What are you supposed to do as a defense when Newton takes off?
  • Hey, weird...Kyle Arrington got burned on the outside and gave up a touchdown.
  • Is Talib hurt again? Did we lose all of our corners just in time for the Broncos?
  • Nice fumble, Ridley.
  • Well...on the plus side, at least the Patriots have one loss that didn't come on a controversial call.
  • You know what sucks? The talk about the final play of the game is likely to be evenly divided between talking about whether or not it was a PI call and talking about Tom Brady "whining" to the refs about picking the flag up. Brady is a poor sport! He didn't shake hands after the game! He followed the ref into the tunnel like a little baby! Is a quarterback not allowed to be upset after a loss? The man has a camera on him at all times. If a camera caught every single thing I ever did or said I'd probably be serving five to ten right now.
  • Great showing from the Carolina fans last night; you guys brought it. And good work by the Panthers not giving Ron Rivera a Gatorade bath after a regular season win over the Patriots, which is more or less the custom in these parts.
  • But a quick note to the Panthers fans who decided to come to our site today and bathe in our tears under the guise of some "great game" comments: we're more than allowed, especially on a Patriots blog, to be visibly upset over a controversial call that could potentially have altered the course of the game. There was a flag on the field, it got picked up with a very poor explanation, and that was that. It's the kind of thing that would make any fan on any losing team angry, no matter who you are or what game you're playing. If the flag had stood and the Patriots had scored on the ensuing play, Panthers fans would be up in arms about letting them play and how the league coddles the Patriots and all that. Calling out someone who is on his or her team's own fansite lamenting a call is as petty as it gets.
This blows. Not much else to say about that. Congrats to Carolina on a well-deserved statement win; you guys are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC. Hopefully we'll get the chance to redeem this one in a few months. Luckily for me I have absolutely zero feelings towards Carolina whatsoever and this loss won't stick with me for very long. Time to turn the page.