Tom Brady looks to pass Friday night against Carolina. (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)Oh yeah: THAT’S what was missing the first two weeks of the preseason. 

Aug 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA;  New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Patriots win over the Panthers 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick watched his team improve to 3-0 in the preseason. (Jim Dedmon-USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick watched his team improve to 3-0 in the preseason Friday night in a 19-17 win over the Panthers.

But infinitely more important is the progress he saw in key areas as the team prepares for the season opener Sept. 11 in Arizona.

The Patriots head coach saw his defense pick off three Carolina passes, including two interceptions of reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton. He saw Tom Brady play four series and throw a perfect 33-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan.

He saw Cyrus Jones, his prized rookie punt returner, rip off a 60-yard run to set up the eventual game-winning touchdown.

“It was a good run but really blocked well,” Belichick said of the third-quarter return. “We covered kicks well, probably best game we’ve had [in preseason].”

Of course, on the negative side, his starting quarterback for Sept. 11 clearly looked the most inferior of the three on the field Friday night as Jimmy Garoppolo struggled from beginning to his end in the third quarter. His team was 0-for-7 on third down in the first half and finished just 1-for-13 and missed its only chance on fourth down.

“I think all of our players have made progress and they all have things they need to work on,” Belichick said after the game. “We’ve moved ahead in a lot of areas. But we’re certainly not where we need to be. I don’t think any player is, any coach is and I’m sure no team is at this point. But we’re all making progress and that’s good. We’ve just got to keep our foot on the gas and try to make it as quickly as we can. That goes for everybody.”

All eyes were on Tom Brady as he made his 2016 preseason debut late in the first quarter. For the first time since Sept. 23, 2001, Brady came into an NFL game (of any kind) as a substitute quarterback.

“I thought that was the best way to play him,” Belichick said of the plan for Brady.

Brady hooked up with Chris Hogan on a perfect 33-yard TD pass that dropped into Hogan’s hands to cap his second drive.

“Carolina doesn’t play a lot of single-high coverage,” Belichick said. “They do it a few times a game. They play a little bit of quarters coverage a few times a game. When you get those opportunities, you’re talking about going up on them. We did a couple of times. That’s one we hit. That’s good to see us take advantage and convert that. We hit one last year to Dobson. When they give you that opportunity, and you don’t see many of them, you’ve got to make it count. Good throw, good catch.”

Perhaps what brought the most satisfaction to Belichick on the night were the three interceptions, all by Rutgers products. Logan Ryan and Devin McCourty (thanks to a tip from Chris Long) picked off Cam Newton and Duron Harmon intercepted Derek Anderson at the Patriots goal line.

“The Rutgers connection came through for us.” Belichick said with a smile.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The film doesn’t lie. Neither does instant replay on a smart tablet on the sideline.

Aug 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA;  New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) tries to elude Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kyle Love (93) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Patriots win over the Panthers 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo tries to elude Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kyle Love (93) during the second half Friday night. (Jim Dedmon-USA Today Sports)

The film doesn’t lie. Neither does instant replay on a smart tablet on the sideline.

Jimmy Garoppolo struggled Friday night to get the Patriots into any sort of offensive rhythm and was the only Patriots quarterback not to throw a touchdown pass in a 19-17 win over the Panthers Friday night at Bank of America Stadium.

There are two plays that he will focus on during film session over the weekend. On the first drive of the night, he threw a pass intended for Julian Edelman at the Panthers 10. Edelman stopped on the in route. Garoppolo thought he would keep moving. The pass went in and out of the hands of linebacker Luke Kuechly.

“Just a little miscommunication between us,” Garoppolo said. “I can’t make that throw. Can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands and give him a chance like that. Just got to be smart in the red zone like that.”

The other big mistake came late in the first half when he was chased down from behind by Thomas Davis, Jr. and stripped of the ball inside the Patriots 15. Fortunately for Garoppolo, James White was there to fall on the ball.

Garoppolo was asked if splitting reps in practice was taking away from his ability to read patterns or feel pressure.

“Nah. It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that,” Garoppolo said. “It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns.”

Garoppolo started and played the first three series before being relieved by Tom Brady. He finished 9-of-15 for 57 yards and was stripped of the ball once. Garoppolo has two weeks to get ready for the opener Sept. 11 in Arizona.

“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight. We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”

The Patriots were lucky to get a field goal attempt of 30 yards from Stephen Gostkowski but that threat ended when the Patriots kicker pushed it wide right.

“Ups and downs. Just little things here and there we need to get corrected. We’ll take care of it.”

Garoppolo said he had a little more heads up Friday that he was starting than the last preseason game, when he was informed of Brady’s mishap with the scissors just an hour before the game.

“Yeah, it’s different but that’s just [what it is]. You don’t know what to expect, you don’t know when you’re going to play, when you’re getting taken out. You just have to react to it, respond to it in the right way. I thought I was going to start but that’s coach’s call. It’s not my call. Just have to react to it, I guess.

“It wasn’t as close to game time as that was. The day of the game, a little more lead time than last week, I guess.”

Garoppolo said he isn’t hesitating to ask Brady or Jacoby Brissett about what they’re seeing on the field when he’s playing.

“I wouldn’t say I try to stay away from it. We’re always interacting, all the quarterbacks, Jacoby included,” Garoppolo said. “We’re all talking on the sidelines, stuff like that. ‘What did you see, what did I see type of thing. That’s the healthy relationship we have. Obviously, he’s not going to be here once the regular season comes but you just have to go about your business as you usually would. You start thinking about all that stuff, it’s just going to cloud your head and get you all confused, I guess.

“That’s the first step. As quarterback, good decisions. That’s very important. If you don’t turn the ball over, you give your team a good chance to win. And when your defense is playing like they played today, three interceptions like that, it really helps you in field position and really, in every aspect.”

Garoppolo insists he will go back to watching film and be very critical of his work in order to get better.

“As hard as it comes. Going to watch the film,” Garoppolo said. “Can’t tell you everything I did wrong or did right tonight but going to check out the film, and things we didn’t do right, we’ve got to get corrected, and in a quick timeframe. We’ve only got two weeks till the regular season hits so we’ll get those things corrected.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Tom Brady looks to pass Friday against the Panthers. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tom Brady looks to pass Friday against the Panthers. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Taking a quick look at who was up and who was down for the Patriots in Friday’s preseason slate against the Panthers:

The Patriots secondary. The New England defensive backs came away with three interceptions on the night, with Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon picking off Cam Newton (twice) and backup Derek Anderson (once).

Tom Brady. The veteran saw his first taste of action this preseason in the first half, and while he was 3-for-9 for 76 yards and a touchdown on the night, his energy and enthusiasm was palpable. It’s debatable as to how valuable the work for Brady was — he’ll be on the shelf until Week 5 of the regular season, thanks to You Know Who. But it was a good first step for him.

Chris Hogan. The new receiver, who will likely step into the role that Brandon LaFell had the last two years, showed some impressive quicks and good chemistry. He ended the night with five catches on six targets for 62 yards and a touchdown, and appears to be ready for the regular season.

Third-down defense. The Patriots were excellent when it came to getting off the field, holding Carolina to 1-for-10 on third down to start the night and 5-for-17 overall.

Cyrus Jones. The rookie out of Alabama had a 60-yard punt return that led to New England’s second touchdown of the night, a 12-yard pass play from Jacoby Brissett to DeAndre Carter that came five plays later. In addition, he was part of a New England secondary that shut down Newton. All in all, a good night for the first-year player.

Third-down offense. As good as the third-down defense was, the third-down offense was that bad. Brady delivered a jolt to the New England offense when he entered the game, but the group as a whole smply couldn’t string together extended drives. The Patriots were 0-for-7 on third down in the first half, and didn’t connect on third down until Brissett found Carter on a touchdown pass play late in the third quarter. (New England finished 1-for-13 overall.) Truth be told, the inconsistency was an issue throughout, as New England was overly reliant on the defense much of the evening.

Jimmy Garoppolo. If you are stacking his three preseason starts against each other, Friday night’s performance was the roughest of the three. Even with some short fields courtesy of the defense and special teams, Garoppolo was unable to find much offensive traction on the night. He went 9-for-15 for 57 yards and appeared rattled at times in the face of the Carolina defense.

Stephen Gostkowski. One of his missed field goals was likely the result of a bad snap from Joe Cardona, but there was no denying the fact that it wasn’t Gostkowski’s finest hour. He missed a 30-yarder and a 52-yarder. He did connect on a 25-yard attempt in the first half and added a 30-yarder in the second half, but the misses will be a point of emphasis this week.

AJ Derby. The tight end struggled with some drops, and it looked like he might have missed at least one blocking assignment in the first half. (He did have a nice fourth-quarter catch from Brissett.) After a really good performance last week against the Bears that might have cemented his spot as the third tight end, it was a bit of a step back for the youngster.

Red-zone efficiency. The Patriots were just 1-for-4 in the red zone against the Panthers. That was on the heels of a 2-for-5 effort last week against the Bears and a 1-for-3 performance in the preseason opener against the Saints. Maybe that starts to improve when the Patriots have their full collection of offensive options on the field — including Rob Gronkowski, who is one of the best red-zone threats in the league. But New England needs to consistently start finishing drives with touchdowns instead of field goals.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Tom Brady made his long-awaited preseason debut in relief, completing 3-of-9 passes for 74 yards, including a perfect touch pass for a 33-yard touchdown to Chris Hogan, as the Patriots beat the Panthers, 19-17, Friday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Aug 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA;  New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady fires one of nine passes on the night Friday in Charlotte. (Jim Dedmon-USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady made his long-awaited preseason debut in relief, completing 3-of-9 passes for 74 yards, including a perfect touch pass for a touchdown to Chris Hogan, as the Patriots beat the Panthers, 19-17, Friday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

The Patriots (3-0) get their final preseason tune-up this Thursday night at MetLife Stadium against the Giants. The Patriots will have to cut their roster down to 75 players by Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Brady came on late in the first quarter for a struggling Jimmy Garoppolo and played four series, mostly in the second quarter. Brady was sacked on his last snap of the night. It was the first time Brady came on in relief in a game of any kind since replacing Drew Bledsoe against the Jets on Sept. 23, 2001.

Also making his preseason debut was receiver Julian Edelman. He played most of the first half, catching one pass (from Brady) on three targets for six yards.

Garoppolo started and then came in for Brady to run a two-minute drill at the end of the first half. He nearly fumbled the ball inside the Panthers 15 before James White recovered. Garoppolo finished the first half 5-for-9 for 37 yards, a fumble and an intentional grounding.

Not including taking two knees to end the first half, Garoppolo, who started the second half, was under center for six series, going 9-for-15 for 57 yards for the game.

Jacoby Brissett came one and completed his first three passes late in the third quarter, completing an in-cut to DeAndre Carter from 12 yards for a touchdown. Brissett, the rookie out of North Carolina State, completed all nine passes on the night for 83 yards and the touchdown.

For the full box score, click here.

Another big highlight was an electric 60-yard punt return in the third quarter by rookie Cyrus Jones that set up Brissett’s first touchdown.

The best news of the night for the Patriots was the play of the secondary. They completely shut down 2015 MVP Cam Newton, intercepting him twice on picks from Logan Ryan and Devin McCourty. Duron Harmon also picked off Derek Anderson.

Nate Ebner, who suited up last week against the Bears but did not play, also made his preseason debut on Patriots special teams after a summer spent playing for Team USA Rugby at the Rio Olympics.

An utterly frustrated Newton played eight drives in the first half, finished 13-of-29 for 100 yards and the two picks. Newton came out to start the second half and moved the Panthers down to the Patriots 11. Newton found an open Ed Dickson at the goal line but the veteran tight end dropped it. The Panthers settled for a 29-yard Graham Gano field goal.

On the second Carolina drive, Anthony Johnson and Trey Flowers teamed on what appeared to be a stunt at the line before Flowers overpowered his man for a sack. The Patriots ended Newton’s third drive with a Logan Ryan interception on a pass intended for Kelvin Benjamin.

On the next drive, Malcolm Butler laid out Dickson with a clean hit to the sternum, knocking the breath out of the receiver. The Patriots, primarily rushing only three defenders, contained Newton for most of the first quarter until a nine-yard rush around the end, setting up a fourth-and-2. That fourth drive ended with another incomplete pass from Newton.

Garoppolo started and played the first three drives. As has been the case in the first two preseason games, Garoppolo and the offense were sluggish. He was called for an intentional grounding and miscommunicated with Julian Edelman in the red area on third down. Stephen Gostkowski then pushed a 30-yard field goal attempt wide right.

After Garoppolo’s three drives, Brady made his debut with 1:56 left in the first quarter. On his very first snap, he connected with Aaron Dobson on an seam route for 37 yards down to the Panthers 12. But Brady missed over the middle on second down for Edelman.

On third down, Brady spotted Martellus Bennett open in the back of the end zone but the tight end couldn’t bright it down. The Patriots had to settle for a Gostkowski 25-yard field goal for the first points of the night.

Whether it was Garoppolo or Brady, the Patriots could not get it done on third down, failing in all four tries in the first quarter and all seven in the first half.

Newton was picked off for a second time when Chris Long stuck his right hand up in the air and tipped the pass. Devin McCourty, playing center field, hauled it in and set up Brady’s second drive of the night early in the second quarter.

Brady got some help from the run game to set up the second score of the night. Tyler Gaffney, fighting for a running back spot on the roster, made his case stronger with runs of 15 and five yards down to the Panthers 28. After a Nate Solder false start, Brady lofted a perfect pass down the right sideline to Chris Hogan. The pass carried just over the shoulders and into the arms of Hogan at the 5-yard line. Hogan did the rest, scampering into the end zone. The only miscue of the drive for Brady was misfiring to Aaron Dobson for a 2-point conversion over the middle.

Brady’s third drive of the night ended in frustrating fashion, as tight end AJ Derby, also fighting for a roster spot, dropped a sure first-down pass in the right flat on third down. That was followed up with Gostkowski’s second miss of the game and preseason, as the kicker pulled a 52-yard try wide left.

After five drives, two of which ended in interceptions, Newton was pulled with over six minutes left in the first half for Derek Anderson. Harmon intercepted Anderson inside the Patriots 5 to end the sixth drive of night.

Gostkowski finished out the New England scoring with a 30-yard field goal with 5:25 left in the fourth quarter, capping another impressive Brissett drive.

With just over two minutes left, the Panthers got on the board again late in the fourth when third-string quarterback Joe Webb hit Marcus Lucas from 18 yards out for a touchdown. Then, with 27 seconds left, the Webb hit Lucas again and followed with a 2-point conversion.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Jonathan Kraft is totally fine with Tom Brady’s mindset.

There was a lot of speculation this week that Brady was upset that preseason snaps were being taken away from him in an effort to get Jimmy Garoppolo ready for the regular season.

Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft is totally fine with Tom Brady’s mindset.

There was a lot of speculation this week that Brady was upset that preseason snaps were being taken away from him in an effort to get Jimmy Garoppolo ready for the regular season.

The team president said he has no concerns about his star quarterback’s desire to play or his competitiveness on the field as it relates to keeping as many snaps to himself in the preseason.

Kraft was asked on the team’s radio pregame show if he senses that the reality is setting in for Brady that suspension is about to begin.

“I think it set in when the decision came down and Tom, as he said publicly when he made the decision the appeal what had happened, he just wanted to move on from this,” Kraft said. “So, I think it’s settled in.

“Tom’s a thoughtful, mature person. I don’t think there’s any difference in his mindset today than there was the day that the en banc decision came down.”

Is there any change in the relationship between Brady and Garoppolo?

“The relationship with Jimmy is the same as it’s always been, which I think is the way it should be,” Kraft said. “I think since Jimmy’s got to the team, Tom’s been trying to help make him as good of an NFL quarterback as he can be because given the nature of our game, you don’t expect it to be through suspension for somebody like Tom Brady, but obviously in the National Football League, players for a lots of different reasons end up not being on the football field.

“Your team is only as good as the person that’s coming in to take your place. Tom cares deeply about the competitiveness of our football team.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick

Patriots coach Bill Belichick confirmed to the team’s pregame radio show that he was anticipating Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett all playing in the third preseason game against the Panthers.

“We’ll see how it goes but I think they’ll all play.” Belichick told Scott Zolak. Belichick did not indicate who would start.

Of course, last week Belichick indicated that all three would play against the Bears and then Brady had a mishap with the scissors.

The indication at the last minute has been that Garoppolo will likely start against Carolina. Brady is expected to come in for work and then Garoppolo could return before Jacoby Brissett finishes up.

Belichick indicated that the 90 degree temperatures and the high humidity will help condition the team.

“There are so many different ways for us to improve tonight. [Humidity] is definitely one of them,” Belichick said.

Here are other takeaways from Belichick:

On DJ Foster getting reps against Carolina: “Hopefully. He had a good week of practice. We’ll see what that looks like, maying running back, maybe returning kicks.”

On Barkevious Mingo and whether he might play inside or outside or play special teams: “We’ll just have to see how that goes. Mingo’s got some versatility. Good set of skills hopefully we’ll be able to utilize.”

On playing most of the players who made the trip to Carolina: “We’ll play all the players that are able to play to night.”

Barkevious Mingo is the first to wear No. 51 since Jerod Mayo retired. Kamu Grugier-Hill made the trip but is not expected to play because of a sudden illness.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia