Ryan L. Fox
Last week, the New England Patriots traveled cross-country to play the Los Angeles Chargers. When the final gun sounded, the Patriots were able to get back to .500 as well as credibility for beating a tough opponent. This week, their roadtrip continued as the team headed down south for a match-up with the Carolina Panthers.
The two teams slogged it out for 60 minutes in what was an ugly game. While fantasy owners cringed while watching, the Patriots simply did what they best: played stout, suffering defense while doing enough on offense. It wasn't pretty but they were able to accomplish what they set out to do to pull over .500 for the first time in a season since Week 3 of 2020.
The Panthers ended up winning the toss and elected to defer to the second half, giving the Patriots the ball to begin the game.
But in a surprise twist, both teams spent nearly the entire first quarter trading punts. Both teams each had the ball twice and both times they drive ended with a punt.
Following a punt by the Panthers, the Patriots got the ball back with excellent field position at their own 47. After two runs by RB Damien Harris netted the offense just 6 yards, the offense was faced with a 3rd and 4 at the Carolina 47. QB Mac Jones dropped back to pass but ended up getting sacked by Panthers DE Brian Burns back at the New England 44. The ball popped out as LB Frankie Luvu scooped up the loose pigskin at the 40 and rumbled 7 yards down to the New England 33.
Luckily the Patriots defense held their ground, forcing the Panthers to settle for a field goal instead of getting a touchdown. K Zane Gonzalez booted the 39-yard attempt through the uprights to give the Panthers the early 3-0 with 12:09 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, KR Gunner Olszewski brought the ball out from 5-yards deep in the end zone to the New England 25 where the offense took over from. On the first two plays of the drive, Jones hit WR Kendrick Bourne for a 9-yard pass and then ran the ball himself for a 2-yard plunge and a Patriots first down.
Two plays later, Jones hit rookie RB Rhamondre Stevenson for a 41-yard catch-and-run pass all the way down to the Carolina 24. Stevenson then carried the ball on three consecutive plays for a total of 21 yards getting down to the Carolina 3. Then on 1st and goal from there, Harris plowed his way into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown run. K Nick Folk booted the PAT through the uprights as the Patriots took their first lead of the game with 8:20 left in the second quarter.
After forcing another Panthers punt, the Patriots got the ball back at their own 38. A 3-yard run by Harris made it 2nd and 7 from the New England 41. Jones then tried to find WR Jakobi Meyers over the right side but the pass got picked off by none other than former Patriots All-Pro CB, now with the Panthers, Stephon Gilmore at the New England 47 and returned to the New England 34.
But like on their last scoring drive, the Panthers could only come away with 3 points. This time it was a 49-yard field goal by Gonzalez to make it 7-6 with 4:28 left in the second quarter.
The Patriots got the ball back on their own 25 following a touchback on the ensuing kickoff. After two running plays, Jones hit RB Brandon Bolden deep along the right side for a 28-yard pass to the Carolina 42 on third down. Three plays later, Bolden ran for 11-yards on another third down opportunity to help keep the drive going. He then followed that up with a 12-yard run on 1st and 10 at the Carolina 24 down to the Carolina 12. A few plays later, Jones hit TE Hunter Henry over the right side for a 7-yard touchdown. Folk booted the PAT through the uprights as the Patriots lead grew to 14-6 with 29 seconds before halftime.
Both teams ended up going into halftime with the score being 14-6 in favor of the visiting Patriots.
The second half ended up opening the way the game opened up with each team trading punts with one another.
The Panthers got the ball back at their own 16 following a Patriots punt. RB Christian McCaffrey got the ball on three consecutive handoffs, getting up to the Carolina 31. On the next play, QB Sam Darnold hit backup RB Chuba Hubbard over the middle for 33-yards down to the New England 36. The Panthers offense seemed to move at will against the Patriots defense, getting down to the New England 20. But then on 2nd and 10 from the New England 20, Darnold’s pass TE Ian Thomas was picked off by CB J.C. Jackson at the New England 12. It was just open field for Jackson as he proceeded to return the interception 88 yards for the game changing pick six touchdown. Folk booted the PAT through the uprights as Patriots’ lead grew to 21-6 with 6:55 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers tried to respond with a scoring drive to keep the game within reach. But on 3rd and 13 from their own 47, Darnold’s pass to WR Robbie Anderson got picked off by Patriots LB Jamie Collins at the Carolina 44 and brought back to the Carolina 43.
Although the drive got a big boosted at the beginning thanks to a pass interference call on Panthers CB Donte Jackson, the drive ultimately fizzled out. Folk booted a 37-yard try through the uprights to make it 24-6 with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
The game starting to get out of hand, the Panthers had to make something happen on their next drive. Following a holding penalty and a short 6-yard pass to WR DJ Moore, Darnold dumped a 21-yard catch-and-run to McCaffrey to the Carolina 42. He then hit McCaffrey on the same play, this time for 19-yards down to the New England 39, and then followed that up with an incompletion and a 4-yard scramble to the New England 35 to close out the third quarter.
On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Darnold again hit McCaffrey for another catch-and-run pass, this time for 18-yards down to the New England 17. Following another 4-yard scramble by Darnold, the Panthers were faced with 2nd and 6 at the New England 14. Darnold tried to look for DJ Moore in the end zone but found C.J. Jackson instead for the drive-killing turnover.
The Patriots then began to rely on the running game to churn out yards and eat up as much clock as possible. This also included getting a first down on a 4th and 2 at the Carolina 36 (a 2-yard run by Bolden) to help keep the drive alive. But on the ensuing play, the offense was hit with a delay of game penalty, backing them to the Carolina 41. The next three plays ended up netting the Patriots a total of 0 yards as they were faced with a 4th and 15 at the Carolina 41. A neutral zone infraction penalty on Panthers LB Clay Johnston moved the ball up 5 yards to the Carolina 36 as coach Bill Belichick decided to go for the 54-yard attempt. But Folk’s attempt ended up going wide right, giving the ball back to the Panthers with 5:54 left in the game.
The Panthers offense managed to get down to the New England 32 with just 4:14 left in the game. An incompletion on first down, a 10-yard sack on second down, and an incompletion on third down made it 4th and 20 from the New England 42. Darnold tried to connect with Moore deep over the left side but the pass went incomplete as the Patriots got the ball back at their own 42 with 3:29 left in the game.
In a surprise twist, Jones ended up being benched for the remainder of the game as backup QB Brian Hoyer came in. But instead of whacky trick plays or throwing all over the place, the Patriots offense simple ran the ball down to the Carolina 42 and the clock down to the two-minute warning. After that, it was three consecutive kneel downs to finish up.
When the clock read 00:00 and the final gun was sound, the Patriots walked off the field winners in a 24-6 victory over the Carolina Panthers. The victory improved their road record to a perfect 4-0 as in also improved their overall record to 5-4, marking it the first time in the NFL 2021 that they were above .500.
Notable Patriots Players Statistical Standouts
QB Mac Jones: 12-for-18 for 139 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT for a QB rating of 85.2, 2 carries for 4 yards (2.0 yards per carry)
RB Rhamondre Stevenson: 10 carries for 62 yards (6.2 yards per carry); 2 catches (on 2 targets) for 44 yards
K Nick Folk: 1-for-2 for Field Goals, 3-for-3 on PATS for a combined 6 points
LB Matt Judon: 4 tackles (3 solo, 1 assist) and 1.0 sacks
CB J.C. Jackson: 2 tackles (1 solo, 1 assist), 2 INTs, 1 Defensive Touchdown, and 2 Passes Defended
S Adrian Phillips: 6 tackles (3 solo, 3 assists)
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
50.6% – The lowest win probability for the New England Patriots during the game (at the 12:52 mark in the 2nd quarter)
3 - The interceptions thrown by Carolina QB Sam Darnold for the game
2 – The number of missed field goals by K Nick Folk this season so far (both ere 50+ yard attempts)
6 – The number of consecutive games this year that RB Damien Harris has had a rushing touchdown in
6 – The number of receiving touchdowns that TE Hunter Henry for the 2021 NFL season
+6 – The turnover differential of the New England Patriots on the road this year (4 giveaways, 10 takeaways)
273 – The total yards on offense by the New England Patriots offense this season, the second least amount (260 back in Week 2 against the New York Jets)
240 – The total yards of offense allowed by the Patriots defense this season, the lowest total allowed
Did You Know That…
- With Sam Darnold’s 3-interception game, this marked the third time this season that an opposing quarterback threw 2 or more interceptions in a single game against the Patriots (4 by Zach Wilson Jr of the New York Jets in Week 2, 2 by Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 8)
- With his 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, RB Damien Harris has now scored a rushing touchdown in 6 consecutive games. He is the first Patriots running back to do that since RB LeGarrette Blount back in 2016
- K Nick Folk has now missed two field goals this year of 50 or more yards, putting him at 3-out-of-5 for the season and 30-out-of-49 for his career of field goal attempts of 50 or more yards
-This is the second time this season that the Patriots defense has 3 takeaways and allowed less than 7 points in a single game (they had 4 takeaways and allowed 6 points against the New York Jets back in Week 2)
My Two Cents
Cent #1: It’s a little discerning to for the Patriots to finally crack over .500 for the first time this season in early November. In many year’s past, they pretty much have wrapped up the division by now and are just playing for the top playoff seed in the AFC. But that was when you had Tom Brady under center and let’s face it…he made up for a ton of shortcomings by the offense.
But all jokes and jabs aside, this is going to be the norm for the Patriots going forward. You’re not going to see them go like 8-0 or 6-2 within the first half of the season. Rather, they’re going to be a middling team that’s either a game over, a game under, or right at .500. I mean, granted they only beaten one team over .500 so far in the season (the 4-3 LA Chargers last week), but Carolina was no slouch and the Patriots took care of business.
Cent #2: Oof. Just oof with Sam Darnold.
I thought that by getting the hell out of New York and going to Carolina, he would rediscover his career. I thought that all his woes and problems (including the ‘seeing ghosts’ incident) was a result of just outrageously bad coaching from Adam Gase. The first few weeks of the 2021 season seem to justify that…until he started to fall off a cliff again.
In the game, he threw 3 consecutive interceptions (yup you read that right folks) with one being returned by CB J.C. Jackson for a pick six and the another being intercepted by Jackson again in the end zone to kill a drive.
Well…once a Jet, always a Jet.
Fox Fist Bump
Well it’s been a long time but I’m giving the Fox Fist Bump to none other than CB J.C. Jackson.
The dude was a game changer for the New England Patriots. With all eyes on former Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore, Jackson essentially outperformed his former teammate. Jackson stat line for the game were 2 tackles, 2 passes defended, and 2 interceptions.
But it’s the magnitude of Jackson’s interceptions that changed the game. Both of those interceptions ended up killing Panther scoring drives deep in Patriots territory, including the first of his picks going for a touchdown.
If Jackson doesn’t make those picks, this is a completely different ball game. Mad kudos to him and I’ll call it right now…he gonna get paaaaaaid this offseason.
The Meatball of the Game
Oof Sam Darnold oof.
I had to clean my glasses to make sure that I was watching the Panthers playing the Patriots and not the Jets. Man, three interceptions with two of those being to the same defender that killed two scoring drives. And to finish the game with a QB rating of 26.3 is just wow.
I actually feel pity for those Panthers fans who spent over $100 on Sam Darnold jerseys. Oof.
Play of the Game
J.C “See Ya” Jackson to the House
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