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Patriots lead Panthers 9-0 at halftime as Tom Brady shines, Jimmy Garoppolo struggles

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The Patriots look to finish with a strong second half.

The New England Patriots traveled to face the Carolina Panthers for week 3 of the preseason and, well, it’s certainly the preseason.

Quarterback Tom Brady helped with the coin toss, which he never, ever, ever does, despite being a team captain. The Patriots lost the coin toss for the third time this preseason, which never, ever, ever happens, too.

Head coach Bill Belichick decided to see how the rookies would fare with the first team units against a strong Panthers squad, as 2nd round cornerback Cyrus Jones, 3rd round guard Joe Thuney, 3rd round defensive tackle Vincent Valentine, 6th round linebacker Elandon Roberts, and 6th round guard Ted Karras all played with the first team.

3rd round quarterback Jacoby Brissett has not played, while 4th round wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell is still dealing with his elbow injury. 6th round linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill fell ill and is not playing, even though he made the trip.

The two teams engaged in a defensive battle over the first quarter, with cornerback Logan Ryan playing a particularly strong game in his first game back after shedding his non-contact jersey. Ryan collected an interception, but the offense was unable to convert it into points.

Jimmy Garoppolo was okay against this strong Panthers defense, with wide receiver Chris Hogan looking like he’ll be a key factor in this offense all season.

The Patriots had one nice drive at the start of the first quarter, but a series of miscues in the red zone left New England empty handed. Garoppolo moved down the field, but almost threw an interception after wide receiver Julian Edelman stopped in the middle of his route. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the subsequent 30-yard chip shot field goal.

Tom Brady took the field at the end of the first quarter and hit Aaron Dobson for a 37-yard gain into the red zone, but threw incompletions to Edelman and tight end Martellus Bennett. Gostkowski connected on the ensuing 25-yard field goal attempt to give the Patriots a 3-0 lead at the close of the first quarter.

The Patriots defense continued to play strong football as edge defender Chris Long flashed his versatility by dropping into coverage and tipping a pass to safety Devin McCourty.

Brady came back on the field and showed his incredible ability with an absolute dime to Chris Hogan for a 33-yard touchdown.

The Patriots failed to convert the two-point conversion and left with a 9-0 lead.

Cornerbacks Justin Coleman and Cre’von LeBlanc joined the first team defense, which shows their status with the team. The defense continued to play strong football, although veteran defensive tackle Terrance Knighton has not made his way to the field. His roster spot is in jeopardy.

When the Patriots offense got the ball back, LeGarrette Blount showed why he’s going to be the team’s leading rusher to start the season with an impressive show of athleticism.

But tight end AJ Derby dropped an easy pass on 3rd down to stall the drive, and Gostkowski shanked his second kick of the night. This was from 52 yards out, so it was a coin flip, but you never want your kicker to miss multiple times.

Panthers QB Derek Anderson drove down the field on his drive, after replacing Cam Newton after his disappointing 6 of 14 night of passing for 55 yards and 2 interceptions, but threw an interception at the goal line to safety Duron Harmon.

Garoppolo did not have a great day in the office, with multiple bad decisions and poor pocket presence. Hopefully he can turn it around in the second half. He and Brady saw 4 drives each.

Defender Chris Long might be the player of the first half. He generated multiple pressures, he tipped the ball, and he was an overall nuisance. He looks much better than he did at any point over his past two injury-riddled years.

The Patriots lead 9-0 at halftime. Use this as your second half open thread.