By Danny Cox

Something seems completely off with the New England Patriots right now, and it isn’t typical to not know which team is going to show up from week to week. This Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, the Pats came out flat once again. New England was trailing 30-16 a few minutes into the fourth quarter before finally finding their groove and showing the world the team they really are.

Unfortunately, the defense continued to give up yardage and allowed Cam Newton and the rest of the Panthers to get close enough for a last-second field goal attempt…which Graham Gano calmly nailed for a 33-30 victory.

Offense: B-

Tom Brady went out and completed 32-of-45 pass attempts for 307 yards and two touchdowns. He completed passes to 10 different players and five of them had more than 35 yards receiving. The Patriots didn’t turn the ball over, but there is a problem somewhere and it appears to be with the offensive line.

Throughout the day, Brady was hounded quite a bit and ended up being sacked three times. The Patriots rushing attack could do nothing all day as Mike Gillislee finished with just 49 yards on 12 carries. But it was obvious that the team needed to abandon the run after falling behind and time started running out.

The excitement is there, but it is obvious that more needs to be done if the defense isn’t going to be able to contain opponents.

Defense: C-

Cam Newton has not looked like himself through three games this season, but he finally realized exactly who he is and the talent he has inside of him on Sunday against New England. On the day, the Pats allowed Newton to throw for 316 yards and three touchdowns, and were unable to stop Kelvin Benjamin or Devin Funchess. Let’s not forget that Newton also added 44 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown to his accomplishments for the day.

New England’s defense did cause two turnovers and sacked Newton twice, but they couldn’t stop the Panthers from putting 33 points on the board. The biggest bright spot was Malcolm Butler, who had his best game of the year with eight tackles and one interception.

Special Teams: B

Again, there was not much to be seen from the return game. There was not one single punt return attempt, and Dion Lewis had only one kick return for 23 yards.

Ryan Allen punted three times for a decent 45-yard average, but it was Stephen Gostkowski who kept the team in the game. He hit all three extra point attempts and all three field goal attempts, including a 58-yard bomb to close out the first half.

Coaching: C

In the two games the Patriots have won this season, they have looked like the team that has dominated the NFL for the past decade. In their two losses, they’ve looked confused, bewildered, sluggish, and just downright outplayed by the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers. For some reason, things seem to change up from week-to-week, and Bill Belichick is not continuing with what works.

Had New England not put together a pretty big fourth quarter, this one could have ended in a rout instead of a last-second loss. Now, they have to figure things out quickly in order to bounce back next week against a very good Tampa Bay Buccaneers team who is now 2-1.

The main thing this week will be figuring out what’s wrong with the defense and teaching the secondary to play full-on for a complete 60 minutes every single week.


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