The Patriots suffered a devastating loss at the hands of the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. A Panthers field goal at the very end of the fourth quarter spelled defeat for New England. Their play was eerily similar to that of the previous week against the Houston Texans, but the outcome wasn’t. The offense showed the same level of toughness; but as they get stronger, the defense gets weaker.
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The “heart and soul” of the Patriots team played like a trooper with six receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. It’s truly a miracle that Amendola was able to continually get back up after some of the hits he sustained. The most talked about hit came with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Brady threw on third and three to Amendola who was knocked down as soon as the ball hit his hands. You can clearly see his head and neck snap forward as he is hit then bounce on and off the turf when he hits the ground. Amendola does get up after that play, and then later catches a touchdown pass to tie the game. Don’t overlook the fact that this was a must-catch pass; Brady was throwing on fourth and goal with three minutes left in the game. Even though the Patriots still lost the game, Amendola’s reception was a must have.
Stephen Gostkowski had a notable performance against the Panthers with three extra points and three field goals; one of which made the record books. Gostkowski’s final field goal came at the end of the first half. He attempted a 58-yard field goal that bounced off the right post then through to pull the Patriots to within one at 17-16 right before halftime. This kick broke the previous record for longest field goal in the stadium and in franchise history. As of now, Gostkowski is 21-of-22 this year with his lone miss being an extra point against the Saints. Gostkowski’s play appears to be one of the only consistencies for the Patriots’ team thus far.
Dion Lewis had one reception for 18 yards and a touchdown. These are unimpressive stats when you look at them initially. However, Lewis made the most of his time on the field, unlike a lot of the players alongside him. Lewis’ touchdown came with just under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. He was handed the ball and ran to the far left of the end zone, just barely making it through. This touchdown propelled the team to step up and, eventually, close the gap. Unfortunately, the defense couldn’t hold the Panthers back as they were able to get close enough for a field goal to win the game.
If one player contributed most to the loss, it was Stephon Gilmore. Overall, Gilmore gave up 81 yards and two touchdowns. He could be seen out of position multiple times; often moving in the opposite direction as the ball. Gilmore also had two costly hands-to-the-face penalties on third down stops by the Patriots defense. One of these extra downs was converted into the Panthers game-winning field goal. Had that penalty not occurred, Deatrich Wise’s sack would have counted and given the ball back to New England with the game still tied.
Patrick Chung could also be seen not doing his job throughout the game. On a single play alone, Chung (and Malcolm Butler) gave up 39 yards due to miscommunication. Chung committed penalties to give extra downs as well. The entire secondary failed to break up passes, or even find their assignment for that matter.
Malcolm Butler’s play has not helped the Patriots at all lately. On Sunday alone he gave up 55 yards. Butler did have an interception as well as a pass break up, so he wasn’t the worst player out there. After the game, Butler commented on their play saying, “Basically, we beat ourselves.” And he’s right. Without a better defense, the team will continue to lose this way.
The media is finally catching on to the fact that the Patriots defense is in trouble. If they don’t improve, and soon, then any chance at being a Super Bowl contender will disappear. The Patriots play on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots have a lot to work out come game time.