BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots won their third straight game in fairly dominant fashion on Sunday, with the defense completely shutting down Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers for a 24-6 victory.

This is the team’s first three-game winning streak since the middle of the 2019 season. The Patriots remain undefeated on the road, improving to 4-0 away from Gillette Stadium, and are now 5-4 on the season.

That 5-4 record has them just half-a-game behind the Bills in the AFC East, after Buffalo was stunned for a 9-6 loss to the Jaguars on Sunday.

Week 9 wasn’t the prettiest of games for the Patriots, thanks in large part to Carolina’s inability to do much of anything good on offense. The New England defense completely smothered the Panthers throughout, and the Pats offense didn’t really have to do much to secure the win.

Here are the Ups and Downs from Sunday’s Patriots victory in Charlotte.

Ups

Defense Had A Day

This is exactly how we envisioned the Patriots defense would play when visions of a dominant unit danced in our minds during the offseason. They continue to get better, and on Sunday, they let the Panthers do next to nothing.

No one was open for Darnold downfield and there was always pressure on the quarterback. The Panthers could only muster a pair of field goals when they were gifted solid field position following a pair of Patriots turnovers, thanks to the dominant nature of the defense. Carolina was 0-for-2 in the red zone.

The Panthers had just three first downs in the first half just 13 for the game. They were also held to 3-for-11 on third down.

And then the New England defense started making plays in the second half, highlighted by J.C. Jackson’s 88-yard pick-six on Darnold to essentially seal the win for the Patriots midway through the third quarter. Jamie Collins also made a ridiculous pick at the line, and Jackson added a second INT in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Darnold was again left seeing ghosts out there, as the New England defense turned in its most dominant performance of the season.

Barmore’s Bat

A few plays after Mac Jones’ fumble in the second quarter, New England’s second-round rookie saved what would have been a Carolina touchdown. Barmore batted down a Darnold pass at the line of scrimmage which was intended for a wide open Christian McCaffrey, who had open space between him and the end zone.

A few plays later, the Panthers settled for a field goal. They would have had a few more points on the board had it not been for Barmore’s big mitts at the line of scrimmage.

Big Drive By Rhamondre

The rookie running back had a really solid drive in the second quarter, accounting for 62 of the 75 yards as the Patriots marched into the end zone. Damien Harris finished off the drive with a three-yard scoring run, but Stevenson had a 41-yard catch-and-run as well as a powerful 13-yard run (on which he nearly threw safety Sean Chandler out of the club) to set the Patriots up at the Carolina three-yard line.

Stevenson had a solid afternoon overall, rushing for 62 yards on 10 carries while picking up another 44 yards on his two receptions. He unfortunately left in the second half with a head injury.

Running Wild

Damien Harris was held to just 30 yards on his 15 carries, but overall, the Patriots were able to move the ball on the ground. They picked up 151 rushing yards overall, led by the 62 from Stevenson and another 54 rushing yards from Brandon Bolden on his eight carries. The Patriots lost both Harris and Stevenson in the fourth quarter, leaving Bolden as their only back at the time.

The Patriots have averaged 137.2 rushing yards over their last five games. As dominant as the defense has been on that side, the New England run game has been just as dominant.

Downs

Gilmore’s INT

Well this one stings. Stephon Gilmore got some revenge against his former team in the second quarter when he picked off Mac Jones and put Carolina in a prime position to score.

The Panthers offense nearly wasted that possession, settling for a 49-yard field goal to cut New England’s lead to 7-6.

First Quarter Penalties

The Patriots were hit with four flags in the opening frame, costing them 25 yards.

On New England’s opening drive, an Isaiah Wynn false start turned a second-and-10 into a second-and-15. That then turned into a second-and-25 when Ted Karras was hit with a false start on the next play. The Patriots had to punt it away two plays later.

Their second drive started with a delay of game, which is just inexcusable. Jones was sacked on the next play to set up a second-and-19. Hunter Henry helped move the chains with a nice 12-yard snag on a third-and-7 a few plays later, but was then hit with a hold to turn a second-and-10 into a second-and-15. The drive stalled two plays later and the Patriots punted away their first two possessions of the game.

The miscues calmed down a bit, as the Pats were hit with just two more penalties the rest of the way.

Wynn In No-Man’s Land

New England’s third possession didn’t go much better, as it lasted only three plays before the Patriots fumbled it away. Defensive end Brian Burns bounced off a chip by Henry at the line and with Isaiah Wynn in no-man’s land and in no position to make a block, Burns demolished Jones from the QB’s blind side.

Jones fumbled as his life flashed before his eyes and it was picked up by Frankie Luvu, who returned it to the New England 33-yard line. But hey, at least there were no penalties on the possession.

There very well could have been a flag on the play though, as Jones grabbed Burns by the ankle while he was still on the ground and ended up injuring the defensive end.

Injuries Pile Up

The Pats lost both of their top running backs in the second half. They also lost Gunner Olszewski in the first half after he suffered a nasty head injury on a kick return.

CBSBoston.com Staff