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Sunday, 01 October 2017 16:02

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Carolina Panthers Upset New England Patriots 33-30

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INITIAL IMPRESSIONS: Carolina Panthers Upset New England Patriots 33-30 Image via twitter.com/Panthers

In their first meeting since 2013, both the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers entered the game at 2-1. Only one could leave Gillette Stadium with a winning record.

For the fourth consecutive week, the (2-2) New England Patriots have looked lost on defense. Luckily for them, in one of those weeks, they faced a defense that was equally horrid. In a second consecutive home game, the Patriots defense had to ask Tom Brady to bail them out of a double digit deficit. Unlike last week, Brady didn't get one last chance. Key penalties on the Carolina Panthers last drive allowed them to milk the clock and kick a last second field goal to end the game.


1. What defense? - Another week, another game allowing 30+ points. In their first four games this year, New England has allowed 128 total points. That is the highest total in the NFL so far. On top of the 33 points allowed on Sunday, the Patriots allowed 444 total yards. The Panthers scored on six of their nine possessions. Two of Carolina's possessions ended with a turnover, one was a fumble in the redzone. The other turnover came when Devin Funchess gave up on a play and that allowed Malcolm Butler to drop into double coverage. Other than the two turnovers, there was nothing positive about the Patriots defense.


2. Malcolm Butler - New England may have a developing issue in their secondary as Malcolm Butler has looked attrocious to start the season. Aside from the aforementioned interception, Butler looked lost in this game and so far this season. His poor start goes back to the preseason where he didn't look like the same player. At this point it is fair to start wondering whether there is something lingering beneath the surface after an offseason in which Butler's name constantly popped up in trade rumors.


3. Danny Amendola - in his three games this season, it is becoming increasingly clear that Amendola is the replacement for Julian Edelman. While Brady was orchestrating a comeback, Amendola was the go to guy for Brady in clutch spots. Amendola caught a touchdown to tie the game at 30 late in the fourth quarter. While Amendola doesn't get the double digit receptions like Edelman would, he has proven to be a reliable target for Brady when needed.


4. Brandin Cooks - After having a bit of a coming out party last week, Cooks was once again MIA for the Patriots offense. In Sunday's loss, Cooks only had three receptions. To this point in the year, he hasn't made the impact that many people had thought he would. One has to wonder whether the chemistry is there with Brady.


5. Linebacker Depth - While Dont'a Hightower returned from an injury in the loss, there appears to be almost no depth at the linebacker position. Elandon Roberts was badly exposed in this game. Roberts consistently appeared to be lost throughout the game. The only other linebacker in this game besides Hightower, Roberts, and Kyle Van Noy was Marquis Flowers who's primary role is special teams. David Harris was brought in late in the offseason. Harris was inactive in the week four loss and had played sparingly in the first three games. It may be time to look outside the roster at other options for the linebacker corp.


6. Cornerback Depth - Coming into the season, the duo of Stephon Gilmore and Butler was expected to be one of the premier duos in the NFL. At this point in the year, it has been anything but that. Both Gilmore and Butler have been benched at points this season. Behind them are Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, and Johnson Bademosi. Rowe has missed time with a groin injury this season. Both Jones and Bademosi are on the roster for their special teams ability. Like the linebacker corp, it may be time to look outside the organization for help.


Extra Point


With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looming on Thursday night, the Patriots have a very real chance to fall below .500 for the first time this "late" in the season since 2002. Tampa Bay presents a similar challenge that the Panthers presented on Sunday, a big mobile quarterback in Jameis Winston with a big target at receiver in Mike Evans. With a short week to get ready for the game and having to make the trip to Tampa, Matt Patricia has his hands full getting his unit ready for another tough challenge. 

Billy Wyatt

Billy Wyatt is a New England Patriots beat reporter for CLNS Radio. Now covering the Patriots for multiple seasons, Billy is a veteran journalist at CLNSRadio.com A graduate of the University of Hartford with a communications degree, Billy’s prior experience was as a sports writer for the Hartford Informer.You can reach Billy via e-mail at bwyatt_91@yahoo.com. And you can follow him on Twitter @Billy_NFL.