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Patriots

4 Ups, 4 Downs: Vereen Returns, Talib Loses Cool In Patriots Loss To Panthers

By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
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Officials separate Aqib Talib #31 of the New England Patriots and Steve Smith #89 of the Carolina Panthers as the scuffle after a play. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Officials separate Aqib Talib #31 of the New England Patriots and Steve Smith #89 of the Carolina Panthers as the scuffle after a play. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) –  It was another tough pill to swallow as the Patriots fell to the Carolina Panthers on a controversial no-call on Monday night.

But there were a number of other missed opportunities by the Patriots throughout the 24-20 loss, and had they taken advantage of any of those chances they wouldn’t have had to rely on a comeback with four seconds left to pull out a victory.

There’s no doubt that the no-call robbed the Patriots an opportunity to pick up their eighth win of the season, but they robbed themselves of other chances throughout. Stevan Ridley’s fumble in the first half took points off the board, and we may never know why the Patriots threw the ball on 3rd-and-1 at the Carolina 8-yard line in the fourth quarter after running the ball so successfully on the drive (hint: Josh McDaniels).

New England is now 7-3 on the season, with all three of the losses coming on the road in games the Patriots could have (should have?) won.

Here are the Ups and Downs from New England’s 24-20 loss to the Panthers.

Ups

Vereen Returns

Shane Vereen returned from the IR and gave the Brady another explosive weapon. Vereen didn’t miss a beat after missing the last eight games with a broken wrist, leading the way with eight receptions for 65 yards on 11 targets.

Brady’s 3rd Quarter

Brady was perfect in the third frame, going 7-for-7 for 57 yards and a touchdown.

The Patriots quarterback finished the night 29-for-40 for 296 yards, a touchdown and the interception at the end.

Gronk’s Touchdown

Gronk caught the 40th touchdown of his career in the third quarter, becoming the fastest tight end to do so (47 games). He showed he is still a bit super-human on the play, dragging a trio of Panthers defenders with him into the end zone.

Gronkowski finished the night with five catches for 59 yards, and was on the receiving end on what could become the most notorious bear hug in NFL history.

Gostkowski Perfect Again

It’s now 19-straight field goals made for Gostkowski, the longest single-season field goal streak of his career. He connected on kicks from 42 and 26 yards, with his second kick giving the Patriots their first lead of the game, 20-17, in the fourth quarter.

4 Downs

Ridley Fumbles … Again

The running back lost the ball again on the Carolina 13-yard line in the second quarter and found his way back into Bill Belichick’s doghouse. He didn’t stay there long, but it was Ridley’s third lost fumble of the season and eighth of his career.

Talib Loses It

Talib was a little too fired up for his matchup with Steve Smith, and let the receiver — and his emotions — get the best of him.

Talib was burned on a 42-yard pass to Smith, and was later flagged for a 15-yard penalty after getting locked up with Smith, which seemed to fire up the receiver even more.

Talib was also flagged for holding on a third down, which led to Carolina kicking a field goal to make it 10-0 in the second quarter.

As great as Talib was the first six-and-a-half weeks of the season, he looked very human on the field on Monday night. To make matters worse, he left the in the fourth quarter, battling the hip injury that has haunted him the last month.

3rd Down Defense

The Panthers were 8-for-11 on third down conversions, with two of their three touchdowns coming on third down.

Cam Newton made good use of his legs on third down, rushing for four first downs. On those four runs, he picked up 56 yards as he eluded defender after defender to move the chains.

Two penalties by New England on third down also led to first downs for the Panthers; Talib’s holding in the second quarter and Devin McCourty’s holding on the Panther’s game-winning touchdown drive.

No Turnovers

After forcing a turnover in 36 straight games, the longest streak in the NFL, the Patriots defense came up empty in the takeaway department on Monday night.

MORE PATRIOTS COVERAGE FROM CBS BOSTON

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