Cam Newton completed 60 percent of his passes, didn’t turn the ball over and had the Panthers in the lead 13-7 by the time he took a seat for the night Friday at Bank of America Stadium.
The Panthers defense forced two turnovers and held the Patriots’ first-team offense to just one touchdown and one third-down conversion.
But during the 17-16 loss, there was plenty left unanswered for Carolina with just more than two weeks before the start of the regular season.
Newton went 17-of-28 passing but suffered from four – maybe five – drops from his receivers. No one was worse than Corey Brown, who had three drops, including his second that would have been a touchdown in as many exhibitions.
“(Coach Ron Rivera) talks about playing a clean game and not beating ourselves,” veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. “I think that was the epitome of the offense for the first half. It was self-inflicted wounds and that is why the performance wasn’t what it should’ve been.”
The defense handled the reigning Super Bowl champions, even if the Patriots were missing a large helping of their starting playmakers. Charles Tillman picked off Tom Brady on a deep pass going to the ground and Kurt Coleman read a pass Brady telegraphed across the middle for an interception.
3 who mattered
Shaq Thompson: The rookie outside linebacker had two violent tackles where he picked up players and threw them to the ground. He made the most of his time on the field with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis as he split snaps with cornerback Bene Benwikere.
Corey Brown: Consecutive weeks with drops on would-be touchdowns is indefensible. The Panthers could have been up two scores on the Patriots’ first teamers if he made the catch.
Ted Ginn Jr.: He had three catches for 30 yards and returned the first punt of the game 32 yards.
▪ Charles Johnson (calf), Devin Funchess (hamstring) and Kawann Short (back) were inactive. Johnson and Funchess were long shots to play after just one practice this week. Lou Young, Colin Jones, Richie Brockel, Ryan Kalil, Ed Dickson and Micanor Regis also sat out due to various injuries.
▪ After the preseason the Panthers have had, they got another scare in the second quarter when Luke Kuechly tweaked his left knee on a sideline tackle. He fell on the next play, came out for the following play and then went back on the field.
▪ Cameron Artis-Payne was again the first running back up after Jonathan Stewart. It appears more and more like the rookie from Auburn will unseat Fozzy Whittaker as the No. 2 running back.
▪ It took until midway through the first quarter for either team to record a first down. There were three three-and-outs and one turnover on downs.
Tillman threw up on the sideline during the first half and missed a few plays before coming back in. He later left the game for good with a head injury. Cotchery pulled his groin during the first half and sat out for the second half of the second quarter. ... Center Brian Folkerts had a rough day in his first action with the first-team offense. Folkerts was beaten a handful of times inside and had two offensive holding penalties in the first half. He eventually left the game with an ankle injury.
Josh Norman and Benwikere had what should have been interceptions on New England’s first drive. Benwikere would have scored on his and Norman was nearly in a seated position when he lost his handle. ...Tre Boston laid the wood on Patriots receiver Jonathan Krause when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo left him hanging over the middle late in the third quarter.
Damiere Byrd took over punt-return duties in the second half for Ted Ginn. Byrd looked hesitant on his late third quarter return and ended up fumbling. The officials ruled his forward progress had been stopped, though, and Carolina kept the ball. ... Kony Ealy got a sack on Tom Brady in the first quarter. It’s the second consecutive exhibition Ealy has had a sack.
They said it
“I think we are getting better, going in the right direction and I'm fired up about that.” – Panthers coach Ron Rivera
“We're going to stick with Corey. This is what the preseason is for. How he bounces back will tell a lot about him.” – Rivera, on Corey Brown.