Nov 18, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen (34) tries to catch a pass while Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) defends during the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers defeated the Patriots 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
These New England Patriots just don’t know how to give their fans a nice, easy game do they? In what turned out to be an epic, albeit controversial contest, the Panthers came out on top, winning via a game ending Tom Brady interception.
Despite the final outcome not being what Pats fans envisioned, it was a terrific game that included a lot of positive things to take out of it. Here are three thoughts I had immediately following the conclusion of this matchup.
1. Offense Is Beginning To Round Into Form
The Carolina Panthers defense was ranked first in overall defense, and first in scoring defense heading into this game. Their front seven is among the most talented the NFL has, and the last couple of games they have played have been absolute domination. However this didn’t faze Tom Brady and the Patriots, as they racked up 283 passing yards, and over 100 yards on the ground. Every facet on the offensive side was clicking, which is definitely a sign of optimism for things to come. The Pats finally had all of their weapons healthy, and they instantly had a big impact on this group. Brady had a multitude of open guys to throw to all night long, including third down back Shane Vereen, who was on the field for the first time since week one. The offensive line had a shaky start to the game, but they closed out well, not allowing Brady to be sacked in the second half, as well as opening up big holes for the running backs all night long. This was possibly the biggest test of the year for this offense, and they passed with flying colors.
2. Decimated Defense Plays Decent, But Needs Help
Every NFL team has to deal with major injuries throughout the season, but what the Patriots defense has had to endure is next level. They have lost their starting two defensive tackles, and top linebacker for the season. Aqib Talib, their star cornerback, has missed significant time, and his two mates in the defensive backfield, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington, are now dealing with injuries. This all goes without mentioning that starting safety Steve Gregory missed last night’s game with a broken thumb. Despite all of these absences, this defense, particularly the front seven, played a pretty solid game. All things considered, I think that they did all they could, aside from a few major breakdowns late in the game. Taking away Cam Newton, they held Carolina to a combined 41 yards on 16 carries. They definitely needed to do a better job containing Mr. Newton, but they solidified the middle, which was a big question pertaining to their defense coming into this game. But the bottom line is if this squad wants to return to the Super Bowl, they must get healthy, because this depleted secondary will not be able to slow down Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, come playoff time.
3. The Patriots Cost Themselves This Game
Now that I spent some time detailing the positives that came out of this game, let’s spend a few minutes diving into the negatives. The simple fact of the matter is, no matter how ridiculous the final call of the game was, the Patriots blew this football game. They had countless stupid mistakes that cost them big time, and there were multiple occasions towards the end of the football game, where they could have closed Carolina out. Among the mistakes were two unsportsmanlike penalties by Aqib Talib and Logan Mankins, and a bad Stevan Ridley fumble in the second quarter.
The Patriots were also faced with a third and one at the Carolina eight yard line late in the fourth quarter, on a drive where they had simply pounded the crap out of the top ranked Panther defense. Instead of giving the red-hot LeGarrette Blount another carry, Josh McDaniels and company decided to go play-action, which resulted in a quick Brady throwaway. So they were stripped of the opportunity to potentially score a touchdown, which give themselves a seven point lead. New England was forced to settle for a field goal, which we know comes back to bite them in the butt. However the defense did have multiple chances of shutting down the Panthers final drive, as they forced three third downs, but couldn’t get off the field once. These little mistakes will not win you a football game when your opponent is as talented as Carolina is, and even though we would all like to blame that horrid no call in the end zone, the Patriots, not the refs, lost this game.