Panthers 33, Patriots 30
These guys are lucky to be 2-2, and Sunday’s 33-30 loss to a team that had scored one touchdown in the previous nine quarters gave no indication that any of their problems have been solved. Everyone loves a good mystery, but not when your defense is the leading suspect.
The Patriots had a hard time keeping a running quarterback (Deshaun Watson) in check against Houston, and those problems surfaced again with Cam Newton, who had been reluctant to run since injuring his shoulder until he watched the Pats-Texans tape. A good look at that mess, and Newton decided even the wishbone offense was worth a try.
Offensively, Tom Brady appeared to hurt his left arm after one of the many hits he took. He came back in, but the TB12 method can only sooth so much pain. A two-day work week before playing the Buccaneers in Tampa on Thursday night is not what the doctor ordered for the ills currently facing the Patriots.
Tom Brady was far from perfect, but when he needed to be, he nearly was, going 11-of-14 on the final two drives, both ending in touchdowns. The second (and tying) touchdown came on fourth down when Brady patiently held the ball, allowing receiver Danny Amendola time to get open in the back of the end zone. The protection was good, but Brady had to trust it. He threw five balls behind receivers, several times when they clearly were open, a sign he was not totally comfortable. He opened the game exploiting a coverage mismatch, locating linebacker Shaq Thompson on Amendola for 16 yards, and later made a great read, finding tight end Rob Gronkowski wide-open for 43 yards when safety Demetrious Cox was late rotating to the middle of the field. Brady threw one behind Gronkowski that nearly was picked off, but safety Mike Adams dropped it. He also threw behind receiver Chris Hogan on a third down and had to settle for a field goal. Too much of the day he was erratic, throwing some great balls then bouncing them too low or casting them high and wide. But in the fourth quarter, he was fantastic, especially when he looked left to Hogan then came back to wide-open receiver Phillip Dorsett for 17 yards. The next play was a Dion Lewis touchdown. Brady’s game-tying TD toss to Amendola was a lesson in patience in the pocket. He hit it perfectly. He just wasn’t perfect enough to survive his own defense.
RUNNING BACK: B
They showed improvement in short-yardage situations and averaged 4.4 yards on 17 carries,…