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Patriots vs. Panthers: Fan Notes from the Preseason

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots preseason matchup with the Carolina Panthers.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Oh that coveted Week 3.

I'd like to know how and when exactly Week 3 of the preseason became the one in which the starters played for the entire first half and we as fans read way too much into things. It doesn't make a lick of sense at the end of the day, but what can you do. The bottom line is that New England played Carolina on Friday night, and we're supposed to take a whole lot out of that game. So might as well get right to it.

  • I really, really hope I don't start expecting a three and out on the first Patriots possession of the game.
  • Great to see Clete Blakeman out there again - really missed that guy. To those who remember the last time the Patriots and Panthers squared off, Blakeman was the genius who suddenly decided, from about 30 yards away, that Gronk was not in fact interfered with but Luke Kuechly in the end zone on the last play of the game and ended up costing the Patriots homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Good to see you, buddy.
  • In retrospect, though, it might have been a blessing in disguise. Nobody was beating that 2013 Seahawks team, and we all got the pleasure of watching Peyton Manning Peyton Manning himself right into the wrong side of history.
  • The New England defense has had tremendous success on 4th and short this preseason. The odds of that translating into the regular season are as good as the odds of me , but it's still good to see.
  • I imagine that there are plenty of folks out there who are high on the defense and low on the offense right now. And to those people I say, let's all keep in mind the unflinching, concretely established, unbreakable rule of football in August: if your team looks good, it's surefire proof that it will 100% translate into when the games matter. If your team looks bad, there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to panic; after all, it's just the preseason. The latter part of that rule has been especially applicable when it comes to the first team offense, and the former has been true when it comes to the defense, so this rule is especially applicable now.
  • Speaking of defense, I'm liking what I'm seeing out of the pass rush overall. A lot of one-on-one matchup wins from the front four, good vision from the linebackers, effective gap discipline, and proper form. I really think the defense is going to be OK (see note above).
  • Not a good look for your first snap back, Aaron Dobson. Wide open, bounced off your hands and into the hands of Charles Tillman. Granted, not the best throw from Tommy B, but come on, man.
  • You know what would be great? If a highly touted Patriots receiver took the field in a preseason game and delivered in a positive way.
  • I mean seriously; two throws in Dobson's direction, two picks. On the second INT, the bulk of the blame goes to Tommy B, but you could see Dobson hesitate just a bit on the in cut.
  • A lot of mention of how crucial Jerod Mayo is to this Patriots defense. I want to agree, but the fact of the matter is that Mayo has more or less been on the sidelines for the past two years, and the Pats have an AFC Championship appearance and a Super Bow victory without him. I think this is an important year for Mayo in terms of showing he can still positively contribute.
  • Speaking of Mayo...not sure how to feel about the new haircut. No cornrows this year. Really hope that doesn't have some kind of Samson effect.
  • That said, is his job in jeopardy? No. He's too smart and Belichick likes him too much. But has he proven himself to be expendable? Hard to argue otherwise.
  • Glad to see the Jerricho Cotchery doesn't just reserve burning the Patriots for the regular season. How old is that guy?
  • Brady's stat line through the first quarter: Two for six for 13 yards, one sack, and two picks. Woof.
  • Speaking of stat lines: how about that "1 career interception" box for Malcolm Butler? Going to have to go back to the game film, see if I can figure out when that pick came. I think it was sometime in Week 3...
  • Christian Fauria was way too upset about how the offense looked. It's almost as if he drove to his local tanning booth and discovered it was closed.
  • I believe I've said this before, but it's worth stating again: I will always have a very special place in my heart for Christian Fauria. He was a huge part of those Patriots teams of the early 2000s. I'll always be Team Fauria. But that man is useless as a color commentator. He's like that scumbag uncle that you have to invite to the BBQ because he's family, hoping he won't show up, but he always does because he never has anything better to do and his ankle bracelet won't let him leave the county.
  • That said, Fauria looks like Bill Belichick compared to Steve Burton. Watching that guy struggle to formulate a sentence is physically painful. No clue how he still has a job.
  • Good for the Panthers crowd for being so fired up for this game. I'm starting to think that there's a direct correlation between fans in the preseason being fired up and those fans teams playing the Patriots. I guess when you're playing a team that has been wearing the crown for the last decade or so, you take whatever you can get.
  • Is Chandler Jones the kind of player opposing teams have to specifically gameplan for? No. Is he a very solid contributor to the defensive line? Absolutely. Very curious to see how the Patriots approach his new contract.
  • Bradley Fletcher spent all of last season with the Eagles getting burned deep. He's spending this season getting burned by quick hitch routes.
  • I was really hoping to have more legitimate analysis in this particular version of my Fan Notes...but there's not much of substance to report. Not much in terms of complex plays drawn up, very little scheming, just a lot of mixing and matching to get guys reps.
  • My stud of the game is Dominique Easley. I've been relatively quiet on him so far this year, but he was a disruptive presence along the middle of the line last night and has an excellent rip move. At this juncture I have no clue who is going to occupy the interior of the line come opening night, but Easley has been making a very solid case for himself.
  • Danny Amendola finally makes a catch! Mark it up!
  • Based on Amendola's play this preseason, thank Tebow Julian Edelman emerged as a legit receiving threat. Amendola isn't the kind of guy you build an offense around. Granted, I'm not sure he was ever asked to be that guy, but I'm also starting to wonder if New England is looking at the success they have had under Tom Brady and started putting too much value in really, really good looking guys.
  • The conversation at the apartment where I was watching this game after the first Patriots touchdown of the night: Guy #1: "Scott Chandler! That guy is going to be the next Aaron Hernandez." Guy #2: "So you mean he's going to get a huge contract and then kill a guy?" Wasn't sure whether to laugh of cry there.
  • In terms of overall performance, I'd give the first half a B-. Not much from the offense other than the last drive of the 2nd quarter, but a good day overall.
  • That touchdown drive, however, was great. Good tempo, Brady in command of the offense, taking advantage of coverage mismatches, and a beautiful throw to Chandler to cap it off. Can't wait to see him and Gronk on the field at the same time.
  • Tarrell Brown may have replaced Travaris Cadet as this year's castoff who burgeons in New England. He looked great last night.
  • And seeing as how he was playing in a preseason game against a Panthers team that no longer has any receivers, I feel completely confident that Friday's game will once again translate beautifully into the regular season. Again, see above note.
  • Really don't know what Jimmy G was looking at on those two interception drops. Also don't know why Jonathan Krause didn't begin his post route at the first down line on that fourth down fail. I guess chalk one up to being a rookie and the other up to being too sexy for his shirt.
  • The biggest issue with the third week of the preseason is the massive disparity between the first half and the second. It's such a tease to watch the starters play for two whole quarters only to see the bubble players flop around for the rest of the game.
  • Big plus from the second half: Tre Flowers is Back in Black (or blue and silver, as it were). Didn't really show up on the stat sheet - four tackles, one solo - put he got some great push at the line and forced some early throws.
  • I don't think he'll make the final roster - but you have to be pleased with what Dax Swanson showed on Friday.
  • James Develin. Dammit.
  • The report on Develin is 6-8 weeks. Could be a lot worse, but could be a lot better. Develin isn't one of those guys you can just replace; pure fullbacks are getting harder and harder to find in this day and age, and plus he's one of those guys who just screams Patriots. Develin's loss is going to especially hurt should Brady end up serving any games, as a strong, clock-controlling running attack driven by a lot of big bodies is Jimmy G's best friend in these early weeks.
  • That said - I never really bought into the whole "this is why we should shorten the preseason" argument. Injuries are going to happen regardless of situation, and at the end of the day a major injury during the regular season is no better than a major injury in the preseason. Your starters are out for one or two series week one, three or four series week two, a half week three, and then out altogether for week four. It's not like there are tons of opportunities for your skill guys to get hurt.
  • Holy Jeez did Tommy B get better looking over the years. That shot of him and Fauria from 2005 was amazing. How does he do it? Who gets significantly better looking as they age? Not me, that's for sure.
  • Although to be fair, I was no prize when I was younger, either. I'm like a pumpkin; come out plump and a little to orange for anyone's liking, and then slowly start to rot away as soon as you clear out all the goop inside.
  • I have to say, though - Brady's butt-chin simply won't quit.
  • Still lots to like from Jimmy G. He's getting more comfortable in the pocket, seeing the whole field, and making smart decisions. Other than those two awful, awful throws, he put in a good day's work and led yet another comeback.
  • This was one of those games where you turn the TV off after it's over, and how you felt about it likely says a lot about what kind of fan you are. Did you love what you saw? Hate what you saw? Not really care about what you saw? Spend a lot of time trying to rationalize the bad and not overthink the good and go back to the DVR immediately afterwards to look at a handful of plays and try to make sense of the defensive schemes while the rest of your friends were out on the deck grilling and enjoying a beautiful summer night and they couldn't get you away from the TV no matter how hard they tried so they eventually just gave up and went back to having a good time and likely talking about how your Patriots obsession is unhealthy and you need to seek professional help? It's a good benchmark for us as fans as well, not just the team.

Last week of the preseason coming up. The starters aren't likely to see much, if any time against the New York Giants, so these next few days will be a great opportunity to start prognosticating as to what the back end of the roster is going to look like. Some injuries to monitor and some training camp battles entering the home stretch as roster cuts continue, so be sure to check out Pats Pulpit often for breaking news and updates.