The New England Patriots squashed the Carolina Panthers in their third preseason game at Gillette Stadium Friday night, 30-7. With the starters playing deep into the game, both the offense and defense turned in a dominating performance. Tom Brady was as sharp as a tack and Chandler Jones illustrated how dominant the front seven can be playing in front of a re-tooled secondary.
Brady had been vocal about his desire to see more reps and the importance of performing well this week leading up to kickoff. New England’s seasoned signal calller threw for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a stout Panthers defensive unit. He went 17-for-21 passing, spreading the football around nicely over five series of work.
Julian Edelman, Brady’s favorite target, hauled in eight balls for 99 yards. Shane Vereen grabbed five passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns, one coming on a 40-yard passing strike. Kenbrell Thompkins caught two passes on three targets. Brady also connected with newcomer Brandon LaFell twice on five targets.
The Patriots running game was quiet for the most part. Steven Ridley led the team in rushing, racking up 28 yards on eight carries. Rookie Justin Gray added 20 yards on the ground.
Brady and the Patriots capped of a signature 80-yard drive in third quarter with a touchdown to make it 20-0.
Aside from Brady’s greatness, it was the Patriots defense that stole the show. They recorded three sacks as a unit, highlighting the dominance of their secondary. Darrelle Revis and Malcolm Butler led the charge in locking down Carolina’s aerial targets, allowing the front seven to get after Cam Newton with regularity.
Chandler Jones, in particular, had himself a night. Jones tallied two sacks and he led the team with six tackles from his defensive end position. Rob Ninkovich had one sack of his own.
After flushing Newton from the pocket in the second quarter, linebacker Jamie Collins delivered a hit that knocked him from the game. Newton departed to receive medical attention.
Carolina totaled just 271 yards of offense in the game. New England’s secondary, led by Revis, blanketed the Panthers receivers from start to finish. New England finished the contest with 405 total yards.
Patriots rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo impressed yet again. He threw for 102 yards on 9-of-12 passing. Garoppolo hooked up with Taylor McCuller for the team’s third touchdown of the game. Ryan Mallet’s action was limited. He was 2-for-3 for 14 yards.
Stephen Gostkowsi was called upon on three occasions. He nailed all three of his field goal attempts, including a 60-yard boot.
“The days are winding down until these games count, so it gets pretty exciting here in a few weeks,” Brady said following the game, “but you’ve still got to try to use these days to make as many improvements as we can.”
And improve is what the Patriots did in this one. Following a shaky beginning to the preseason in Washington and a less than stellar victory last week against Philadelphia, the Patriots executed to near perfection in all three phases of the game.
They’ll head back to the practice field to prep for their final preseason game with the New York Giants next week. All-in-all though, Bill Belichick was happy with his team’s efforts.