While Cam Newton had a poor Friday night – not leading the Panthers to a single TD and not helped out at all by the receivers who dropped five of his passes – Carolina’s linebacker tandem of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis was strong as usual.
Kuechly missed on an early interception in which he had little time to react but could have held on, but he later wrestled down New England running back LeGarrette Blount on fourth-and-1 to stop the Patriots’ first drive of the third quarter. He also had a nice tackle in which he shot the gap on running back James White and grabbed him for a 3-yard loss.
Davis, blitzing a lot in third-down passing situations, had a sack and a quarterback hurry. He also forced a fumble. But he wasn’t satisfied.
“We have to play better,” Davis said. You look at the mistakes we made. Those are the mistakes that teams that are not as good as we are, that are not as talented as we are make.”
Both linebackers were out of the game by midway through the third quarter and might not play at all Thursday in the final preseason game. If I were the Panthers, anyway, I wouldn’t play Nos. 58 or 59 for that one – neither of those guys has anything left to prove in a preseason game.
▪ You absolutely cannot drop an easier touchdown pass than the one Newton laid into tight end Ed Dickson’s hands in the third quarter after escaping from a sack. Dickson is normally more reliable than that, but the Panthers are obviously missing tight end Greg Olsen. He has been having back spasms and sat out the game as a precaution.
▪ Official Pete Morelli had one of those embarrassing “leave the mic on” moments for about 30 seconds during the second quarter. He didn’t say much of note, however, other than the weather was “muggy.” That was certainly the right call. Even at 9 p.m. as halftime neared, roving vendors were having trouble keeping bottled water in stock.
▪ From the anecdotal evidence I heard, the Panthers’ “new and improved” wifi system actually was new and improved. If you had a different experience, let me know.
▪ Tom Brady’s entrance into the game late in the first quarter on New England’s fourth series sure woke up the crowd, giving them something to boo for after a slow offensive start for both teams had lulled some people to sleep. Brady ended up only 3-for-9, but two of the passes went for 33 and 37 yards.
▪ I liked what I saw from running back Cameron Artis-Payne, who appears ready to make a leap.
▪ The crowd was good for a preseason game – the stadium was maybe three-fourths full at its peak. I don’t like Friday night games at any time for the NFL, however, because of the inherent high school football conflict. I don’t see why the league just doesn’t avoid the day entirely.