Foxborough, MA - After home victories over the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots were riding high with a 2-0 record in the pre-season. Last night, a 25-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers brought the team back down to Earth.
The first half of the game was a fairly lifeless affair as the scoring only came from the kickers. Panthers kicker Graham Gano buried three field goals and Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots (who would later score a fifty-two yard field goal) added one to make the score 9-3 going into halftime. It was in the second half when the Panthers really started to pull away with another Gano field goal and a pair of touchdowns from Taylor Heinicke and Mose Frazier, the former punctuated by a missed two-point conversion.
The Patriots rounded out their scoring in the pre-season game against the Panthers with a Mike Gillislee score and a two-point conversion from the running back, as well. However, the turning point of the game came in the third quarter when fullback Henry Poggi fumbled, resulting in Heinicke's rushing touchdown.
While the Patriots fell to 2-1, the Panthers advanced to 3-0 on the pre-season and they received another crucial win when 2015 MVP quarterback Cam Newton avoided a perilous situation that nearly resulted in a head injury. Fortunately, Newton was okay and available to return to the game.
As for the Patriots quarterbacks, neither of them particularly lit up the field. Tom Brady completed twelve of his eighteen passes for 102 yards and backup Brian Hoyer netted seven more yards off of four more completions. Gillislee had the best statistics of anyone on the Patriots offense as he was one of only two rushers to get touches for New England; the other was Jeremy Hill who racked up twenty-five yards.
The most interesting New England storyline came from the receving corps. Top targets Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski only received one target a piece. Julian Edelman and Eric Decker did not fare much better as they only had five targets each. It was Riley McCarron who surprisingly rose above the pack with for receptions for forty-nine yards.
The Patriots have some interesting storylines going into their final pre-season game against the New York Giants.