Patriots vs. Panthers: Handing Out the Grades

If the goal of preseason is to prepare for the regular season then the Panthers still need a few more games, preferably against lesser opponents. Unfortunately they only have one more tune-up game to start getting it right. Make no mistake; the Patriots outclassed the Panthers on their way to a 24-7 preseason victory Friday night. The Patriot offense moved the ball fairly easily and consistently. The Patriot defense stuffed the Panthers retooled running game. On special teams, the Patriots bull rushed the kicking game on their way to blocking two field goals. There were a few bright spots for the Panthers last night which I will highlight below. Overall the best that can be said for the last two preseason games is that the Panthers are in no danger of becoming overconfident. This game did not provide the boost of confidence the home crowd was hoping to see.

The Offense
The Panthers improved running game ground to a halt against the Patriots vaunted D-line (57 yds total). On the flip side the Panthers improved the passing game and also had better success on third down. After a third-down drop by Carter on his first pass both he and Colbert later redeemed themselves with clutch catches. Colbert provided the lone big play of the night for the Panthers on a 48 yard catch from the slot where he made a nice move to avoid the safety for the score. I give kudos to Steve Smith for a nice downfield block on the CB to spring Colbert. Jake had a pretty good night statistically (11-18, 162, 1 TD) but in the end couldn’t sustain any drives for TD’s. The line did a better job protecting the QB but the receivers overall dropped to many passes. The second team didn’t fare any better as Dwayne Jarrett (2 for 24 yds) had his biggest night to date with the Panthers. David Carr led a nice drive late in the third only to throw an interception in the red zone. Overall it was an improvement from the previous week but is still a work in process.Grade: C-

The Defense
The Panthers defense did provide some stops and occasional nice plays against the Patriots early. Yet Brady again showed why he a master of the short passing game and dinked and doinked the Panthers for two scores and a field goal. The run defense played better with Morgan in the line up yet Lawrence Maroney still put up 58 yards on 15 carries. The pass defense prevented the big play for the most part but couldn’t cover the crossing routes or the short dumps and couldn’t put any pressure on Brady. Jon Beason saw extended action and made some big hits and flashed great speed. On a downside he failed to wrap up the runner a couple times and allowed the runner extra yardage. It’s obvious the Panthers are playing a vanilla zone defense and are not blitzing very much; choosing to keep their cards close to the vest in the preseason. Overall the Patriot offense kept the defense off-balance for most of the night. Grade C+

Special Teams
The Panthers covered kicks fairly well and Jason Baker continued his good work punting. Nick Goings took a step back on the kick off returns with several less than adequate returns. He either wasn’t following his blocking or wasn’t getting any at all. Any positive progress on special teams was undone by the field goal unit. The Panthers not once but twice allowed penetration directly up the middle of the line for the block. I have to think this was not the usual blockers up front. If not this has to be a major concern for the coaching staff going forward. Grade: D-

Overall this score card represents another ugly loss for the Panthers. They have one more game to get it right and hopefully provide themselves and their fans a much needed boost of confidence prior to the season opening kick off.

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