The Patriots defeated the Panthers 17-16 on Friday night, to improve to 2-1 in the preseason.
Tom Brady is playing without three key players on offense, Edelman, LaFell, and Gronk, and most of the starters on the OL are not playing. And, this is the preseason and the starters don’t really care anyways, they just want to get out of the game healthy, so don’t make anything of the “struggles” Brady is having through 3 preseason games.
Brady went 7-13 for 84 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. He also rushed twice for 18 yards. But, in the 2 minute drill right before half, Brady looked like his usual self, leading the team up the field and throwing a beautiful fade to tight end Scott Chandler for the touchdown. Pats went up 7-6 at half time.
WR Aaron Dobson’s night was not pretty. He had Brady’s first interception ripped out of his hand by Charles Tillman and then did not finish his route on the 2nd Brady interception and Brady did not see the safety. Plays like that will not get him in the game with Brady. Later on, with Garoppolo at QB, he did make a nice catch on a deep 40 yard pass. He finished with 2 catches for 51 yards.
Scott Chandler looked good with Tom Brady at QB, especially on that beautiful touchdown. It makes you think the Pats will be hard to stop in the red zone with the big bodies of Chandler and Gronk. Chandler finished with 3 catches for 40 yards and a touchdown.
The Patriots defense was solid through the game. Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower made their debuts and boosted the linebackers. The defense made the plays in the first half, including holding on four downs to force a turnover and force 3 punts and 2 field goals.
In the second half, the Panthers would score a touchdown, a 2 yard pass from Cam Newton to Mike Tolbert, for the Panthers to go up 13-7 in the 3rd. This would come against the 2nd string defense, but after that, the defense would only allow one more field goal for the Panthers final points of the night, 16.
Malcolm Butler is the team’s number one corner, that has been obvious all off-season, but the 2nd spot is being claimed by Tarell Brown. He’s had a monster off-season with the Pats and continues that in the past two preseason games. The third corner is looking more like a job for Bradley Fletcher. The combination of Butler, Fletcher, and Brown worked out really well for the Pats last night.
DL Dominique Easley had an awesome night, looking every bit the force he was in college. He was disruptive on almost every single play, regardless if it was run or pass. Easley and Chandler Jones, both had a sack in the game.
In the 4th quarter, Jimmy Garoppolo finally got things going, leading the team up the field for a touchdown. He threw a 9 yard TD to RB Dion Lewis, to close the gap on the Panthers, 14-16. Blount rushed twice for 11 yards on the drive, and Garoppolo hit Dobson for a 40 yard gain.
After a quick 3 and out by the Panthers, Garoppolo and the offense went up the field for a field goal, a 53 yard attempt that was money by Stephen Gostkowski. That would come around 7 minutes left in the game, but gave us the final score, 17-16.
RB Dion Lewis lined up as a WR on that touchdown catch, and has been flashing so much this preseason, many believe he is the front runner for the third-down back role and I can’t blame them for thinking that. Bolden got the start, but Lewis has been showing some much potential. He has the quick feet and speed to match and he can block. James White has also looked good, but Lewis just flashes at you. I think the Pats have three running backs who can win that job and can do good, so it’s a good problem to have. Lewis finished with 3 rushes for 12 yards, and 4 catches for 20 yards and a touchdown.
The Pats aren’t looking great or horrible this preseason, but thankfully it is just preseason.