FOXBORO — Once upon a time, teams came to Gillette Stadium and pretty much knew they’d leave with a loss. The only question was by how much.
During the Tom Brady era, the Patriots have established a significant home-field advantage. Foxboro became a virtual fortress.
But now the place has been severely penetrated, as the Patriots lost their second home game of the season, 33-30, to the Carolina Panthers yesterday. It’s the first time since Brady has been a starter that they’ve lost two of their first three at home.
Forget about the Patriots having an air of invincibility. The Panthers couldn’t wait to take the field for their shot at slaying the defending Super Bowl champions.
At the outset, Cam Newton & Co. were miffed no one gave them a shot, so there was the disrespect card strongly motivating the Panthers. But there was more to it than that.
They also had a little more jump in their step thanks to simply watching tape of the first two home games. After seeing what Alex Smith and the Chiefs (42 points) plus Deshaun Watson and Texans (33 points) did, who wouldn’t be champing at the bit to face the Patriots?
Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart sounded a little more confident than usual.
“We thought we were going to win today. We expected to win today,” said Stewart, who gained 68 yards on 14 carries. “That’s the way we went out there and played.”
No team — not even the Jets, Bills or Dolphins — is going to fear coming to Gillette after seeing all the points these teams have put up. In the three home games to date, the three teams averaged 36 points.
After Brady put together a 10-play drive, hitting Danny Amendola on fourth-and-1 to tie the game at 30 with 3:09 to play, there was time for Newton to do something — whether it was score a touchdown or get in field-goal range for Graham Gano.
Last week, Watson had a bit of time, too, but the rookie wasn’t able to pull out a victory in the final seconds. This week, Newton did the job aided by a pair of Patriots penalties.
When in the past has that been a problem here? Maybe it isn’t the location as much as there are problems with the team itself.
“Every year is different. We just haven’t done a good job at home,” said Brady, as the team is now 102-18 at home with him at quarterback. “At the end of the day, it’s not really where you play, it’s how you play. And road, home, night, day, 1 o’clock, 4 o’clock — it’s really how you play. We just haven’t…