Sunday, September 18, 2005
It hadn't happened since December of last season. The Patriots lost. The Patriots lost to an NFC team for the first time since week 4 of the 2003 season against Washington. The Patriots hadn't played that badly since the infamous 31-0 defeat in Buffalo of that same season.
The defense was sporadic at best and the offense was flatter than Nebraska. The Pats got away with it against Oakland in Gillette, but unlike Oakland, the Panthers are a solid, well-balanced team.
The Patriots started off the game by moving back 5 yards thanks to one of many false start penalties. An incomplete pass, a 3 yard run, and another incomplete pass were followed by a punt. The Panthers moved the ball close to midfield and punted putting the Pats back to the 12 yard line. Right then and there, I was worried. The Patriots gameplan is that even if they don't score, they at least move the ball to give the D a rest and to gain an edge in field position. But now, Carolina had the field position advantage.
Once again, the Patriots began the drive with a false start penalty. Thanks to a 15 yard pass to Branch and a defensive holding penalty, the Pats were able to move the ball forward, advancing as far as the 36 yard line. Miller's punt was fielded by the Panthers at their 12, but Smith was able to return it 21 yards to the 33.
The Pats were getting good pressure on Dellhome. This was a key thing because when Dellhome gets pressured, he makes stupid plays. Remember in the Super Bowl two years ago, all of his "great" plays were pretty much jump balls downfield. Dellhome threw to Colbert three times in a row. The first two were incomplete. The third was picked by Starks near midfield. It couldv'e been a huge moment in the game except for the fact that Roosevelt Colvin was penalized for illegal hands to the face, so Carolina got the ball back, and an automatic 1st down. The Panthers once again moved the ball close to midfield, and once again, they punted.
The Patriots started on their 20 after the touchback. Brady hit Brown for 7 yards, and then hit Brown for 71 yards. Brown got most of the yardage after the catch. 1st and Goal on the 1 and Brady hit a wide open Daniel Graham for a touchdown.
The Patriots were on top, but it wasn't in normal Patriot fashion. They didn't grind the ball down the field with short passes and runs. They found a seem and Brown exploited it for a big play, and that was pretty much the entire scoring drive.
The Patriots fell to the same type of drive. The Panthers had a 23 yard pass and a 41 yard pass to set up a Stephen Davis TD run to tie the score.
The Patriots answered with a drive that consisted of a 4 yard run, a run for no gain, and an incomplete pass intended for Faulk. The Panthers drove into Patriot territory before punting, and pinning the Patriots at the 13.
The Patriots started their drive looking good. It was their first really good, consistent drive. Brady hit Givens for a 15 yard gain. Dillon ran for 2. Brady to Givens for 13. Brady to Dwight for 24 and then 9. On 2nd and short at the Carolina 23, Dillon ran for no gain, but the Pats were pushed back thanks to a Dan Klecko holding penalty. On the next play, Brady throws a pick. It looked as if the Pats were at least going to get 3 out of the drive and maybe more, but Brady returned to being inconsistent at the end of the drive.
Colvin began the defensive series with a sack of Dellhome and an 8 yard loss. The Panthers got 16 on the next play though. They then moved the ball to the 33 and hit a 51 yard field goal to get the lead.
The Patriots responded with a drive that consisted of a 14 yard run by Dillon and 4 incomplete passes by Brady. The Panthers returned the punt 76 yards all the way to our 13 yard line. A few Stephen Davis runs plus a pass interferance penalty later and the Panthers are up 17-7.
With 1:37 left in the half, the Patriots got the ball back. They really needed to put up a few points just to keep the game close and go into the locker room with a little bit of momentum. Instead, Brady got sacked and the Pats had to run out the clock.
The Panthers began the 2nd half with a mediocre drive that was aided by a Rodney Harrison unnecesary roughness penalty. They put up 3 more points with a 52 yard field goal.
The Patriots responded with a nice drive that sputtered near the end. Brady hit Branch for 4, Dillon ran for 3, and Branch caught another pass for 5 and a 1st down. Then Dillon was stopped for a loss of 3, but Dwight caught an 8 yard pass and Faulk a 22 yarder to the Carolina 33. Dillon ran for 5, then 1, then Brady threw an incomplete. Vinatierri hit a 45 yard field goal to make it a 10 point game.
On the first play of Carolina's next drive, Mike Vrabel picked off Dellhome and took it to the house to make it a 3 point game. At this point, I thought we were going to win the game. I was wrong.
The Panthers got the ball back but were stopped at their 40 by the defense. The Patriots got the ball back, then got a 1st down up to the 38. Then Hochstein false started for what seemed like the 14th time of the game. Brady threw a pair of incomplete passes. On 3rd and 15, Brady was sacked and lost the ball. Julius Peppers picked it up and ran 10 yards before being taken down at the 12. Another Stephen Davis Touchdown and the Panthers were up by 10 again.
The Patriots next drive was very indicative of how they played the entire game. On the first play, Dillon got called for a hold. Before the next play, Daniel Graham got called for a false start. On 1st and 25 on the 18, Brady hit Branch for only 5. 2nd and 20, again Branch, and again only 5. 3rd and 15, Brady misses Watson. Miller punted and it only went 27 yards. Carolina started at their 45.
Although Carolina only moved the ball 1 yard on their 3 and out drive, they were able to pin the Pats at their 3 yard line. Graham once again had a false start making the situation even worse. From the 2, Brady hit Givens for 6 after an incomplete pass. Miller was able to make a good punt though but the Patriots were wasting time and were on the wrong end of the field position struggle.
The Panthers once again went 3 and out. The Patriots defense was finally showing up. But the offense couldn't muster anything. Time was running out. The Pats went 3 and out. There was less than 7 minutes on the clock in the 4th. The Panthers had a 1st down in their next drive but were only able to get up to the 30.
With less than 4 minutes left, the Patriots got the ball back on their 19. Brady hit Branch for 17. After an incomplete, he threw to Givens for 19. After another incomplete, Brady hit Faulk for 1. On 3rd down, Ricky Manning was called for defensive holding giving the Pats a huge 1st down. Brady threw incomplete to Branch. On 2nd and 10 in Carolina territory, he hit Watson for 7. Then Watson fumbled the ball. Carolina recovered at the 29. The game was effectively over.
With 2:17 left, the Panthers ran the ball, got a 1st down, then kneeled to end the game.
With full credit to the Panthers, the Patriots lost because they shot themselves in the foot. Brady had 23 compeltions and 21 incompletions. He's better than that. Dillon ran for an average of 2.6 yards a rush. He's better than that. The Patriots had 12 penalties for 86 yards, had a crappy punt, a crappy punt coverage, turned the ball over 3 times, had no kickoff or punt return game whatsoever, and dropped the ball too many times. They didn't look like champs, they looked like chumps.
It doesn't get any easier. The Patriots have to go to Pittsburgh to play the North Division Champion Steelers. Then they're home to the West Division Champion Chargers. Then on the road in Atlanta and Denver. It might just be the beginning of the season and the team needs time to gel with no Croenell, and no Weiss, no Bruschi and no Johnson. Or it may be that this team has some serious problems.