The Carolina Panthers destroyed the New England Patriots 25-14 and it wasn’t even that close. The Patriots didn’t look like they cared, which is fine since it’s the preseason, but they also didn’t look like they could have executed if they were trying, which is not fine.
Here are my quick takeaways after the game.
The Patriots defense was awful in the first half
When the Patriots starters were on the field, the Panthers gained 77 yards, 58 yards, 7 yards, and 59 yards. The three extended drives resulted in field goals for Carolina. It’s great that they tightened up in the red zone, but the Patriots first team defense spent the first half getting gashed every which way by the Panthers offense.
Carolina waltzed their way up the field over the first 10 minutes of the game with four third-down conversions. Then they gained 28 yards on consecutive plays on their second drive. And then they ran the hurry-up to score right before the half. They were able to move however they wanted by running the ball, passing to receivers, or passing to their tight end. Bill Belichick won’t be too happy.
The Patriots offense was also awful in the first half
The Patriots went three-and-out on their first drive, stalled inside the red zone on their second drive and settled for a field goal, and then gained a mere 44 yards on 14 plays before Stephen Gostkowski pushed his field goal attempt wide. That was the Patriots entire first half.
Tom Brady was accurate enough, but his receivers weren’t able to get open down the field. Julian Edelman dropped two passes, while Chris Hogan had 1 catch for 10 yards. The tight ends didn’t catch any of their 3 targets. Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill gained a weak 28 yards on 11 carries (15 of those yards came on a single Gillislee carry, meaning they averaged 1.3 yards on their other 10 attempts).
It wasn’t their best performance.
Phillip Dorsett looked really good!
Dorsett was one of the lone bright spots in the first half for the Patriots as he collected all 4 of his targets for 36 yards. Those catches included 16 yards on 1st-and-10 and a 6-yard gain on 4th-and-3. He looked quick with the football in his hands and he was able to contribute on short passes- a sign of development after only really being a deep ball target in 2017.
With Julian Edelman suspended for the first four games of the year, Dorsett really has a chance to be the Patriots leading receiver, which is kind of a scary thought- but is closer to reality than anyone could have projected last year.
Here are some young players that look to be in the running for playing time:
Keionta Davis started on the defensive line opposite of Deatrich Wise Jr. and they’re likely to be the top defensive ends behind Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn. Derek Rivers is likely to get a year to prove himself.
Ja’Whaun Bentley got some playing time behind Elandon Roberts, but both seem like strong bets to make the roster.
Eric Rowe started opposite of Stephon Gilmore and should be the presumed starter.
On offense, Dorsett was the only youngster that really made any strong claim.
Here are some veterans looking in from the outside
The Patriots sprinkled in some Eric Decker didn’t play until the second half, and while Cordarrelle Patterson played in the first half with the first team, he was also playing late into the fourth quarter.
Jeremy Hill suffered an injury that could hand a roster spot to Mike Gillislee. Hopefully it’s not serious.
Offensive linemen Luke Bowanko, Brian Schwenke, and Matt Tobin were all playing in the second half and will have a hard time making the roster.
Will Tye did not make the most of his opportunities, getting blown away as a run blocker and not pulling down his target opportunity.
Marquis Flowers was playing behind both Roberts and Bentley, which should be slightly concerning since he hasn’t played much this preseason.
Jason McCourty was with the second-team cornerbacks opposite of Keion Crossen. Cyrus Jones was the slot receiver. We could be looking at a top five of Gilmore, Rowe, McCourty, Crossen, and either Jonathan Jones or Cyrus Jones.