The New England Patriots fell to 2-2 yesterday, courtesy of a 33-30 home loss against the Carolina Panthers. While the team had its moments – almost exclusively on offense and special teams, though – it was unable to make enough plays to win the contest. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the winners and losers of yesterday's contest.
Losers: CB Malcolm Butler, CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Eric Rowe and FS Devin McCourty, SS Patrick Chung
The Patriots' big-name secondary has had some issues in the first three games of the season but never were they as apparent as yesterday. The unit struggled with communication – directly leading to two touchdowns –, winning one-on-one matchups, penalties and playing sound technique. In short: It was outmatched by the Panthers' aerial attack and made life to easy on its opponent. While Butler, Gilmore, Rowe, McCourty and Chung are all talented players, they have yet to find a way to lock down the back end of New England's defense.
Loser: Matt Patricia
Ultimately, the defense's performance over the first quarter of the season falls back onto the unit's coordinator. Whether it comes down to game-planning, practice preparation or in-game adjustments, Matt Patricia has not been able to put his players in a position to succeed. Yesterday, as noted above, was arguably the lowest point so far as New England failed to stop the Panthers' offense on a consistent basis.
Winner: WR Danny Amendola
As bad as the Patriots played, the team still had a few standout performers. Among them was Danny Amendola. Catching six passes for 42 yards, the 31-year old once again proved how reliable of a target he provides especially with the game on the line. On the game-tying drive, Amendola converted a third down by miraculously holding onto the football and also caught a touchdown on fourth down.
Winner: K Stephen Gostkowski
One of the under-the-radar story lines of the 2017 season so far is the performance of Stephen Gostkowski, who is bouncing back nicely from an uneven 2016 campaign. Yesterday, New England's kicker was perfect yet again and added three field goals – among them a career-long 58-yarder – and three extra points to his totals: Gostkowski has now made 21 of 22 kicking attempts this season.
Loser: LB Elandon Roberts
Despite recovering a third quarter fumble by Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart, Elandon Roberts had a sloppy game. The second-year man was caught out of position in the running and passing game multiple times and struggled with the same issues that have plagued him his entire NFL career: He relied too much on his instincts yesterday but simultaneously reacted badly to play action fakes.
Loser: LB Cassius Marsh
New England used Cassius Marsh quite a lot on the defensive edge yesterday but the former Seattle Seahawk failed to provide a spark there. He was often overpowered by the offensive linemen and unable to properly set the edge at times. Cam Newton's eight-yard run on the first touchdown drive of the second half is a prime example for that: Marsh was sucked too far into the middle and Newton had no problem gaining outside leverage and a first down.
Winner: RB Mike Gillislee
For the second game in a row, Gillislee failed to score a touchdown. However, the first-year Patriot still had a very good game – arguably his best one of the year from a pure running perspective. The 26-year old looked decisive hitting the holes and was powerful when getting to the second level. Carrying the football 12 times for 49 yards, Gillislee provided New England with a much-needed spark on the ground.