The Patriots had some struggles on offense, but overcame a nine-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Carolina Panthers 17-16 in their third game of the preseason and improve to 2-1.
Offensively, the Patriots got off to a very slow start. Quarterback Tom Brady threw two interceptions and the entire unit was visibly frustrated. However, with a two minute drill to end the half, Brady connected on all cylinders and found tight end Scott Chandler on a beautiful end zone lob to give the Patriots a 7-6 lead. This was Scott Chandler's first preseason game action with the Patriots and the Brady to Chandler connection was one of the biggest stories of the night.
On defense, the Patriots' first unit was much better, with strong performances from Jerod Mayo, Tarell Brown, Malcom Brown, Jabaal Sheard and others. The second unit also played well, particularly in generating pressure. James Morris, Rufus Johnson, Trey Flowers, and Jordan Richards all played well.
Much like Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo got off to a very shaky start, with two near interceptions on the opening drive. However, he would settle down and play some really good football down the stretch, leading the Patriots back from a nine-point fourth quarter deficit.
Full highlights of the game:
The New England Patriots begin the game with a three and out for the fifth time in six drives for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. After a strong punt return by Ted Ginn Jr that started the Panthers opening drive on the Patriots side of the field, the Patriots defense stepped up and forced a turnover on downs. Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo had key run stops on back to back plays.
The Patriots had a three and out on their second drive, with this as the third and long play.
Well, that scared the living daylights out of me. #NEvsCAR pic.twitter.com/Y9wWMkjU9l— Only In Boston (@OnlyInBOS) August 28, 2015
Just no Tom, no.
After a Carolina three and out, the Patriots finally picked up a first down on another Tom Brady scramble. However, on the ensuing play, Aaron Dobson had the ball wrestled away from him on a post route with Charles Tillman in coverage.
The ruling on the field stands! That's a pick for Peanut! #NEvsCAR Listen LIVE: http://t.co/PtfuY2VR6n pic.twitter.com/fOOwdggTqF— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) August 29, 2015
The Panthers would take advantage of the interception to march down the field for their first three points of the night on a Graham Gano field goal.
Things continued to go downhill for the Patriots' offense, with Tom Brady throwing an interception on the next drive to Panthers' defensive back Kurt Coleman. Aaron Dobson was the intended receiver, and Coleman read Brady the entire way.
One interception of Tom Brady wasn't enough for this defense! http://t.co/0R3N5g0rZK— Panthers247 (@NFL_Panthers247) August 29, 2015
The Patriots and Panthers traded defensive stops before the Panthers got the ball moving early in the second quarter. However, their drive was stalled due to Dominique Easley's first sack as a pro:
Sack de Dominique Easley #NEvsCAR https://t.co/Q94K1zXfh2— NE Patriots Brasil (@NEPatriotsBr) August 29, 2015
The Panthers would drive for a field goal late in the half. They were held out of the end zone due in part to a terrific pass break-up by Tarell Brown on Corey Brown. Brown had two first-half pass break-ups, and is looking more like the team's #2 cornerback.
On the final drive of the first half, the Patriots finally got things going on offense. The Patriots turned to the no-huddle, and Tom Brady went 5/6 for 71 yards and this beautiful endzone lob to Scott Chandler:
DON'T COUNT OUT TOUCHDOWN TOM pic.twitter.com/QVnX4l7x6Y— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) August 29, 2015
With the score, the Patriots went into the half with a 7-6 halftime lead.
The Panthers began the second half with a machine-like drive, marching 80 yards down the field in nine plays, and having the drive culminated with a play action pass from Cam Newton to Mike Tolbert from the two yard line to give the Panthers a 13-7 lead.
Jimmy Garoppolo took over for the Patriots to begin the second half, and nearly threw a pick six on his opening pass. It was fortunately dropped. A few plays later, he had another easy interception dropped. Garoppolo would settle down, but the Patriots' drive stalled on a turnover on downs in Panther's territory.
The Panthers would tack on another field goal on their next drive to extend the lead to 16-7 heading into the final quarter.
The Patriots would climb to within two on a quick drive midway through the fourth quarter thanks to two beautiful back-to-back throws by Jimmy Garoppolo. First, he found Aaron Dobson down the right sideline for 40 yards after a nice double move by Dobson and nice placement by Garoppolo.
A longa recepção de Aaron Dobson #NEvsCAR https://t.co/uFnb8aLeJc— NE Patriots Brasil (@NEPatriotsBr) August 29, 2015
On the ensuing play, Garoppolo found running back Dion Lewis on a quick slant on a play in which he was lined up on the far right for the touchdown:
O TD de Dion Lewis #NEvsCAR https://t.co/bf6znzp7BU— NE Patriots Brasil (@NEPatriotsBr) August 29, 2015
New England would suffer a potentially significant injury on their next drive, with James Develin twisting awkwardly on his right leg after a pass reception. The injury looked serious, and the entire team, including coach Bill Belichick, would see him off as he took the cart off the field.
Despite the injury, Stephen Gostkowski would nail a 53-yard field goal with just over six minutes to go to give the Patriots a 17-16 lead.
After a slew of strong pass rushes from Rufus Johnson, the Patriots forced the Panthers to punt the ball away. Jimmy Garoppolo would play keep-away from that point forward to seal the Patriots victory.