The New England Patriots have lost their week four matchup against the Carolina Panthers 33-30. The team, which looked good at times on offense but had glaring defensive issues, now stands at 2-2 four weeks into the season.
The game started with the Panthers winning the coin toss and electing to kick the football to New England's offense. Josh McDaniels' unit then gained 52 yards in eight plays – all passes – while displaying tremendous rhythm. However, they stalled near the red zone after two incompletions and a pass short of the sticks. New England settled for a 41-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
The lead, however, would be short lived as the Panthers were able to answer the home team's opening possession with an eight-play drive of their own. A field goal made it a 3-3 game midway through the first period. Even though New England's next possession appeared to start off well an offensive pass interference call as well as a third down sack forced the team to punt.
It did not take long for the team to get the football back, however. On the third play of the Panthers' second possession, Malcolm Butler was able to pick off quarterback Cam Newton to give possession to New England. The Patriots took advantage of the takeaway and marched 74 yards in 11 plays to take a 10-3 lead: On 3rd and goal from the 2-yard line, Tom Brady connected with Chris Hogan to put the team ahead.
Again, however, the lead would not live long. The Panthers answered with a six-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game at 10 on a screen pass, courtesy of a defensive miscommunication between Devin McCourty and Stephon Gilmore. New England was able to respond as well and drove 57 yards in 12 plays. The drive, however, stalled in the Carolina red zone and the Patriots had to settle for another field goal to take a 13-10 lead.
The visitors answered New England's field goal with a touchdown drive – one that saw more defensive breakdowns for the Patriots as the unit has some clear issues with communication in the secondary. Down 17-13, the team responded with a four-play drive that set up a career-long 58-yard field goal attempt for Gostkowski. The All-Pro kicker made it and the two teams headed into the locker rooms at 17-16 in the Panthers' favor.
Carolina received the second-half kick off and was able to march down the field once again. However, the Patriots' defense was able to keep the off the scoreboard as Trey Flowers forced a Jonathan Stewart fumble that was recovered by Elandon Roberts at the 7-yard line. Unfortunately for the Patriots, the offense was unable to turn the takeaway into points as it ended its ensuing drive with a punt.
The Panthers were able to add to their lead on their very next possession: The team drove 68 yards in 11 plays to go ahead 23-16 on a touchdown pass from Newton to Devin Funchess. New England, again, responded with a punt. Carolina, again, responded with a scoring drive. A 7-yard touchdown run by Cam Newton put the Patriots in a 14-point hole.
At that point, New England's offense was finally able to get some momentum back. The unit went 75 yards in nine plays, including a fourth down conversion from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. The drive was capped by an eight-yard Dion Lewis scoring run that reduced the Patriots' deficit to seven points. The Patriots' defense was then able to get a stop as Dont'a Hightower in his first game back from injury sacked Newton for a 12-yard loss on 3rd and 5.
The subsequent punt set up the Patriots' on Carolina's 49-yard line – and the team's offense took advantage of its best starting field position of the game. The team drove 49 yards in 10 plays and ended the series with a one-yard scoring pass from Brady to Danny Amendola on fourth down. Tied at 30, New England's defense was asked to provide yet another stop. They could not even though they came close to doing so.
However, a hands to the face penalty against Gilmore negated a third down sack and allowed the Panthers to drive into field goal range. Kicker Graham Gano then made a 48-yard attempt and New England lost its second home game this season to fall to 2-2.