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Big Mo: How a boring football team lost a boring game to the Patriots in Week 9

These plays swung momentum in a game where the Panthers never found any.

New England Patriots Vs. Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Big Mo series highlights the plays (or series of plays) that had the biggest impact on swinging the Panthers win percentage as calculated by ESPN. In Week 9 Carolina looked completely outclassed and outcoached by a very average New England Patriots team. Here’s the depressing win probability chart:


After a back-and-forth game early on, the Patriots took a 14-6 lead just before halftime and never looked back. Here’s what happened:

First quarter 2:12 - Panthers 0, Patriots 0

Brian Burns’ strip sack (45% to 59% Panthers win percentage): Near the end of the first quarter in a scoreless game, Brian Burns exploded off the line and drilled Mac Jones from behind and forced a fumble. Frankie Luvu recovered at the New England 33. The Panthers offense converted with a field goal giving Carolina a 3-0 lead. The Panthers win percentage jumped 14 points to 59%.

Second quarter 10:28 - Panthers 3, Patriots 0

Stevenson scampers for 41 yards (54% to 27% Panthers win percentage): Carolina led 3-0 when Mac Jones hurriedly dumped a short pass into the flat to Rhamondre Stevenson for what initially looked like a short gain. But Stevenson made a cut and just outran most of the Panthers defense en route to a 41-yard gain to the Carolina 24. This play set up a Patriots touchdown for a 7-3 lead and the Panthers win percentage plummeted to 27%.

Second quarter 6:31 - Panthers 3, Patriots 7

Stephen Gilmore’s timely pick (27% to 47% Panthers win percentage): Former Patriot Stephon Gilmore got revenge on his former team with his second interception in his second game as a Panther, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. The Pats led 7-3 midway through the second quarter with the ball at their own 41. Gilmore anticipated a throw over the middle, stepped in front of the receiver, and returned the pick to the New England 25. Alas, the offense could only produce another field goal, cutting the deficit to 7-6.

Third quarter 7:12 - Panthers 6, Patriots 14

Darnold’s pick six (20% to 4% Panthers win percentage): The Panthers trailed by eight points halfway through the third quarter and were in the red zone at the New England 20. A touchdown and two-point conversion could tie the game. But pressure forced Sam Darnold to roll to his left and he threw a terrible ball that sailed over Ian Thomas and into the hands of J.C. Jackson. He returned the pick 88 yards for a touchdown and a 21-6 Patriots lead. It was game over from there.

Big Mo MVP - Brian Burns

In addition to the strip sack, Burns had five tackles including a tackle for loss. He was injured twice in this game though, so we can only hope it’s nothing serious. It was great to see Burns have some explosive plays in this one.

What I liked

  • Seeing Christian McCaffrey back on the field and being given a more sustainable workload of 18 touches.
  • Ameer Abdullah looking frisky again as a receiver out of the backfield with four receptions for 30 yards.
  • Jeremy Chinn posting 11 tackles with two tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

What I didn’t like

  • Over the last 11 games Joe Brady’s offense has scored the following points in the third quarter: 0, 0, 0, 0, 7, 0, 0, 0, 0, 3, 0. I’m going to continue to post this stat every week until the offense scores a third quarter touchdown.
  • Sam Darnold’s three picks and multiple balls getting batted down at the line of scrimmage.
  • Robby Anderson. That is all.
  • Watching Shaq Thompson get beat in coverage on third-and-5 late in the second quarter, giving up 28 yards to running back Brandon Bolden. This key play set up a New England touchdown and a 14-6 halftime lead.

The Panthers are about the worst type of team to root for right now - not very competitive and generally boring to watch. Yes, there’s reason to be optimistic about the long-term prospects of the defense, but this team will go nowhere until they upgrade at quarterback and fix the entire offensive line, outside of Taylor Moton. With Cameron Erving going on injured reserve, it’s time to start Brady Christensen at left tackle and see what he can (or can’t) become.

Carolina goes on the road to face an 8-1 Arizona Cardinals team in what will be a tough matchup for a struggling team.