By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Get ready, folks. Next time you see the Patriots, they’ll be looking to finish out their campaign with an undefeated record, and they’ll be doing it against the New York Giants.
The Patriots, of course, will be in that position after defeating the Panthers 10-3 on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. It was not an offensive showcase by any means, but as always, there were some Ups … and there were some Downs.
In the three drives quarterbacked by Cam Newton, the Panthers were able to gain just 29 total yards. They went three-and-out on their first two drives, with Kyle Van Noy sacking Newton on second-and-6 on the second drive. The third drive ended with an Adam Butler sack on third-and-10.
Michael Bennett picked up a third-down sack in the second quarter to keep the Panthers off the board. The Panthers had 29 yards of total offense in the first half.
Carolina didn’t put any points on the board until the fourth quarter, at which point they had just 98 yards of total offense. Ufomba Kamalu put an exclamation point on the game by sacking Will Grier on Carolina’s final possession — the Patriots’ fourth sack of the night.
That sack left the Panthers with just 99 yards of total offense for the entire game.
The Patriots also held the Panthers to just 51 rushing yards on 17 attempts.
The pass rush and front-seven certainly benefits from a strong secondary, and the Patriots’ secondary came as advertised.
Newton had just 30 passing yards on 4-of-6 passing. Kyle Allen went 3-for-6 for 16 yards. Rookie Will Grier went 4-for-8 for 44yards.
Ron Rivera challenged two plays for pass interference on the Patriots’ defense, and he was successful on neither.
Allowing only a field goal over 60 minutes of a preseason game is a pretty impressive feat. This defense appears to be the real deal, from top to bottom.
Jakobi Meyers (With Stidham)
Meyers didn’t make the most of his reps with Tom Brady at QB (more on that later), but he sure did manage to shine when Jarrett Stidham was slinging the pigskin.
The undrafted rookie receiver caught seven passes for 74 yards from fellow rookie Stidham, leading the Patriots in receiving for three straight weeks.
Jake Bailey (The Punter)
The rookie punter out of Stanford officially won his spot on the roster this week, and he celebrated by kicking the everloving snot out of the football the first chance he got.
Bailey boomed his first punt 56 yards, letting it hang so long that Terry Godwin muffed the punt. The Panthers recovered the resulting loose ball but lost seven yards.
Bailey’s next punt bounced down on the 5-yard line and was downed on the 8-yard line.
Jake Bailey (The Holder)
Stephen Gostkowski missed another field goal, this one a 43-yard attempt late in the third quarter, making the kicker 1-for-4 this preseason. That’s not great.
Replay, however, showed that Bailey handled the snap and spun the ball so that the laces were staring Gostkowski right in the face at the point of contact. And as anyone who’s seen Ace Ventura can certainly attest, it should be laces out. (We don’t need to get into what should happen to Dan Marino.)
Gostkowksi did successfully kick a chip shot in the fourth quarter.
Bailey’s handling the punting quite well. He needs to improve as a holder … quickly.
This game was not for the faint of heart.
Benjamin Watson left with what appeared to be a concussion after Eric Reid delivered a late cheap shot.
Rookie running back Damien Harris left the game after he got just two carries.
Special teamer Brandon King injured his left leg on a punt return, requiring a cart ride to get off the field. Special teamer Nate Ebner also got hurt. Receiver/punt returner Gunner Olszewski got examined in the medical tent after taking a heavy hit to the back. Tight end Lance Kendricks required some attention, too, after he got sandwiched by two defenders while making a catch.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy suffered an apparently lower-body injury while sacking Cam Newton, but Van Noy did return to the game.
That’s not ever what you’re looking for in a preseason game.
For the second straight week, the Patriots were heavily penalized by the men in stripes. They were hit for six penalties for 60 yards in the first half, including a holding penalty that negated a 30-yard Sony Michel run. Jarrett Stidham got called for a false start. Hjalte Froholdt got called for holding, negating a 19-yard pass play. It continued in the second half, when Christian Sam took a 15-yard penalty for a facemask, and Ken Webster was called for being offside on a Carolina punt. The Panthers ended up successfully converting the resulting fourth-and-2.
The Patriots took eight penalties for 80 yards. In addition to that making for a choppy game, it also represented an issue the Patriots will need to clean up before September.
Jakobi Meyers (With Brady)
After a summer where he was the belle of the ball, the undrafted rookie out of N.C. State finally got his chance to show he could shine with Tom Brady under center. Considering there weren’t many receivers suiting up for the game, the opportunity was great.
Meyers did not make the most of it. On the first drive of the game, Meyers quit on his route on a third down. Brady threw a deep ball, believing Meyers would continue running up the field, but Meyers simply stopped, leading to an incompletion.
Brady threw behind Meyers for an incompletion over the middle on the first play of the second drive, and the two failed to connect once more later on a deeper throw over the middle. Brady was 0-for-3 when targeting Meyers.
Meyers also picked up a holding penalty that negated that aforementioned 30-yard Michel run, but that one can be forgiven, as it appeared to be a missed call.
BONUS DOWN: Brian Hoyer
The veteran backup quarterback didn’t play at all on Thursday. It may have been a sign that the Patriots are comfortable to just keep Stidham as Brady’s lone backup. (Or it could also not mean that at all. You never do know with Bill Belichick.)
“Yeah we do what we think is best for the team,” Belichick carefully explained. “Take a look at everybody. Brian’s played a lot of football.”