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The Patriots' defensive struggles continue during the loss to the Panthers

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2016’s top scoring defense remains a major work in progress in 2017.

NFL: Houston Texans at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots have fallen to 2-2 courtesy of a 33-30 loss against the visiting Carolina Panthers. The script was a familiar one: The team's offense was able to get points onto the scoreboard and under normal circumstances would have been able to win the game. However, the circumstances are not normal at least when measured by New England’s lofty standards.

The reason for that is the defense – a unit that has allowed 128 points through the first quarter of the season. Never before has a Patriots defense given up that many points four games into the year. Against the Panthers, coordinator Matt Patricia's squad has had another tough outing. Not only did it surrender 33 points, it also continued to display some major issues especially in regards to communication.

Multiple times, the secondary was caught out of position; twice the miscommunications directly led to touchdowns. Of course, credit has to be given to the Panthers for taking advantage of the Patriots' breakdowns. Nevertheless, New England's defense, which led the league in scoring just one year ago, made the visitors' job far too easy – and not just on the two touchdowns mentioned.

The Patriots allowed their opponents to gain 444 yards of offense, while giving up considerable yardage both on the ground and through the air. And it's not as if Carolina was an offensive powerhouse entering the game: The team averaged only 276.6 yards and 19 points per game before traveling to Foxboro.

The Patriots furthermore were unable to stop the Panthers on six of nine third down attempts. And while the unit did have two sacks it failed to make any other plays behind the line of scrimmage. It forced only one punt and despite registering two takeaways was unable to help turn the team's fortunes around or get any momentum going.

No more evident was that than on the game's final drive. The Patriots were in a position to stop the Panthers for the second straight series. However, a hands to the face penalty on Stephon Gilmore negated what would have been a third down sack by rookie Deatrich Wise Jr. Even then, the unit was still in a position to get the stop the team needed. It couldn't do it and instead allowed Carolina to march into field goal range by using a mixture of pass and run.

That final series showed the potential of the unit – if not for the penalty, it would have been able to get another timely stop. However, more than that it showed that the defense still is a major work in progress no matter the situation – and one that currently cannot be counted on to regularly stop opposing offenses with the game on the line.

Will this be fixed in the upcoming days or weeks? Judged by the past, it appears more probable than not that it ultimately will get better even though a solution does not appear to be in sight. Until one is found, Tom Brady and the offense will continue to do what they have done the first four weeks of the season: try to carry the load as far as possible.