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Patriots vs. Panthers: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 33-30 loss to the Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Patriots games aren’t interesting.

New England dropped their second home game of the year, unable to stop the Panthers for the life of them as a 14 point comeback fell short on an annoying penalty and a last-second field goal. The offense is potent, but the defense is terrible, and when you’re giving up over 30 points a game and only force one punt on the day, you’re going to lose games, plain and simple.

As I no longer have NFL Sunday ticket and was actually at this game, I don’t have any access to a replay. And honestly, even if I did, I can think of a lot of things I’d rather be doing than reliving this one again, so today’s Fan Notes are going to be based entirely on memory.

In other words, this doesn’t bode well for anyone.

  • It’s kind of ironic that, in all the Pats games I’ve been to over the years, yesterday’s saw me in the best seats – Section 331, first row, right over midfield. If there’s some kind of inverse ratio of the team playing better the worse my seats are, you can just set me up in the very last row right now. I have no problem with that.
  • There’s absolutely no sugarcoating it: this defense is awful. We’re talking the remake of Nightrider awful here. And what’s most frustrating about it, to me at least, is that I can’t for the life of me figure out why. This unit wasn’t gutted this past offseason. They didn’t lose some cornerstone player. Their defensive coordinator wasn’t poached for a head coaching gig. It’s basically the exact same unit as last year, with few exceptions, and right now they couldn’t stop a geriatric scooter gang.
  • And it isn’t even something you can pinpoint, the way we could in 2011 with the total lack of pass rush. At every single level, it’s five alarm bad. Zero pressure up front. An inability to wrap players up and stop YACs at the line. Shallow cross routes are readily available where the linebackers are supposed to go. And receivers aren’t just getting open – they’re getting WIDE open. I counted four times yesterday where a Panther receiver caught a pass and the nearest player to him was another Panther. That level of getting open has nothing to do with talent or ability. It’s poor execution, mental errors, a lack of chemistry, and an ineffective grasp of the schemes.
  • I guess that’s the one semblance of hope I’m clinging to at the moment as we round into the second quarter of the season; what we have here is a defense that looks completely lost out there. There are 11 men out there doing their best impression of sidelines Eli Manning at the moment. And the good thing about being lost is when you figure out where you are, it suddenly becomes very easy to get to where you’re going.
  • At least that’s what I’m telling myself, because right now there aren’t enough corners available that this team needs to turn.
  • When the Patriots gave Stephon Gilmore all that money, you could count me among those who liked the move, but didn’t love it. The whole transaction seemed very un-Belichickian to me, and giving a big payday to an outside defensive player was outside of how they usually approach team building. And as of right now, the Gilmore signing is looking like a massive egg. He hasn’t been terrible…but he hasn’t been great, and he certainly isn’t playing up to his contract through these four games.
  • The best defensive play of the day came from Devin Funchess, who broke up what would very likely have been Malcolm Butler’s second pick of the day.
  • What really sucks is that this offense is solid. 30 points a game is no joke. I will say that Tommy B didn’t have his best game – a few passes sailed low, and he missed a wide open Cooks in the seam on New England’s opening drive for what should have been a touchdown, but still, there are just so many ways this offense can beat you. Unfortunately, one of those ways is not “prevent the other team from scoring points at will.”
  • I used to think that backup QB was the cushiest job in the NFL. In 2017, it’s whichever punter is playing the Patriots that week.
  • Last week, when the Patriots held the Texans to a field goal on their final drive and got the ball back down 28-33 with two minutes to go, I was 100% confident that the Patriots were going to win the game. When Tommy B tied it up with about 5 minutes to play, all I could think of was how long he’d need once the Panthers scored again. Unfortunately, he never had the opportunity.
  • The Pats did almost force a 2nd punt of the day, though. So that’s something, I guess.
  • I’d like to sit here and gripe this morning about how an incredibly ticky-tack illegal hands to the face penalty turned a 4th down into a 1st down and ultimately went on to cost the Patriots the game – but in no way, shape, or form can I tell you whether or not what I saw on the Stephon Gilmore replay constitutes a flag. And I don’t think any of you can, either. If you’re a believer in alternate reality theory, then the Panthers and the Patriots played thousands of times yesterday across thousands of planes of existence. And I think that that exact motion from Gilmore was flagged in maybe half of them.
  • Again, for the millionth time, it isn’t so much the nature of these penalties that chaps my cheeks; it’s the total inconsistency with which they’re enforced. Five identical plays will draw five completely different calls week-to-week, and while some of that can be explained by human nature and the way the game goes, much more of it is because the NFL wants to feed the fantasy machine and keep the game high scoring.
  • The good news is that if it’s high scoring games the NFL wants, this Patriots defense is falling right into line.
  • That said, if I were to find out in 20 years that Jerome Boger has some personal vendetta against the Patriots, I wouldn’t bat an eye.

A short week and a trip to a Tampa Bay team that boasts another mobile quarterback and receivers who are capable of catching the ball, which is currently the only prerequisite for beating this secondary. The Patriots are a miracle Tom Brady drive away from being 1-3 and share the same record as the Jets.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the basement.