The New England Patriots won their second preseason game Friday night against the Carolina Panthers. In a 30-7 romp at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots showcased some offense and a whole lot of defense as they were able to shut down the Panthers first unit. Tom Brady was eventually able to get in a grove as his connection to Kenbrell Thompkins and Julian Edelman found a rhythm.
The Patriots offense was a bit shaky the first couple of drives of the game. After Ryan Mallett came in for one series and led the team to a field goal, Brady returned and caught fire. In total he went 17-of-21 for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns. The first touchdown drive was an impressive 91-yard drive that ended on a 40-yard touchdown pass to running back Shane Vereen. The touchdown put the Patriots up 10-0. As the defense continued to shutdown Cam Newtown, the Patriots ended the first half with a 60-yard field goal off the foot of kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
Leading 13-0 into the third quarter, Brady continued looking sharp. He marched the Patriots down the field on a 80-yard drive, this time capped off by a 6-yard touchdown pass to Vereen. That touchdown moved the score to 20-0. The defense set up the next scoring drive when second-year linebacker Steve Beauharnais intercepted a pass from Derek Anderson and returned it 61 yards to the Carolina 35. That set up a 21-yard field goal by Gostkowki.
Rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo capped off the scoring with a 11-yard pass to fullback Taylor McCuller. The Patriots defense eventually gave up a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but the game was already in doubt and the Patriots left Gillette Stadium with a solid win and a nice performance by both sides of the football. Three performances really stuck out in the 30-7 win over the Panthers.
Tom Brady: The 37-year-old quarterback showed just why he is still an elite quarterback. He had some really impressive throws to Thompkins and Edelman to get out of some long third-down situations. The chemistry he is forming with Thompkins is something to take note of. When Rob Gronkowski is eventually back in the mix, Brady will have a nice arsenal of weapons at his disposal. His chemistry with Shane Vereen out of the backfield also displayed itself on Friday night.
Chandler Jones: The third-year defensive end is ready for a breakout season. His two sacks of Newton were impressive, but he was also impressive stopping the run. The improved secondary will help a player like Jones get to the quarterback even more this season. Rob Ninkovich also had a sack in the game. It is looking like the Patriots will have a nice pass rush, but depth still remains a question mark.
Tayler McCuller: With all the talk about fullback James Develin, the Patriots may have another fullback capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. McCuller had a nice shoestring catch for a first down and another catch for a touchdown. It would be unusual for any team to carry two fullbacks, but with the Patriots lack of depth at tight end, either Develin or McCuller could convert to tight end. Either way, it looks as though the Patriots are bringing back the use of the fullback in the offense.