I realize many want to quickly forget the Friday night game in Foxboro, and while much of the game can (and should) be thrown out, there are a few things worth mentioning and remembering.
No one should ever question the skill level or importance of Luke Kuechly to the Panthers defense. Over the past two seasons, media voices have said he has benefited from an excellent defensive line and simply pads his numbers based on that fact. However, when Kuechly left the field on Friday night, there was a huge drop in defensive performance.
I noticed Luke was wearing extra padding on his right wrist and thumb. Kuechly usually does wear wrist braces, but this was something else. It looks as though he may have seen limited play as a precaution. See for yourself...
Star Lotulelei was one of the bright spots on defense. He posted a couple of tackle, an assist, and this hurry on QB Tom Brady.
Another bright spot was rookie Kelvin Benjamin who had five receptions. I noticed a familiar face tackling Benjamin. Former Panthers linebacker James Anderson (55 below) was signed by the Patriots in June.
Benjamin continues to improve and refine his game as the preseason progresses.Things like pointing our the line of scrimmage marker and making sure he is lining up absolutely perfect shows he understands how much of his position are about the small details.
The Patriots tried shutting Benjamin down by placing veteran CB Darelle Revis on him.
The result was an 11 yard reception and a first down.
Jonathan Stewart once again had the best performance of the running backs, but that isn't saying much considering the poor performance by the entire offense that night. But Stewart did manage to almost get 3 yards per carry, while Deangelo Williams averages less than 2.
Stewart is strong enough to power through initial contact....
...and nimble footed enough to avoid it.
Cam Newton had a rough night, but still managed to post a respectable 88.2 QB rating. I wonder what his rating would have been without Kelvin Benjamin on the field.
Cam was under pressure for 8 of his 17 snaps. The most troubling statistic is that Cam was only blitzed twice by the Patriots defense. That means the Patriots were able to apply pressure 6 times from their base defense. Not good.
On one awkward fall, Cam strained a back muscle. Noticing he was unable to get up out of the huddle, Greg Olsen motioned for a trainer.
Along the sidelines, Ron Rivera was not satisfied with Cam's performance. Rivera has said Cam will play in the last preseason game. He needs as many snaps as possible with his completely new receivers before the season starts.
Thomas Davis posted six tackles on the night.
While others are getting up, walking away, Davis remained intensely focused on the first down marker, making sure his man didn't get there.
Tom Brady was free to throw the ball all night long, only being pressured four times by the defense. Only one of those pressure came when the Panthers played their base defense. For a team built on applying pressure with only four down lineman, that is not a good showing.
If there is one thing Brady does extremely well and Cam needs to improve on it is moving in the pocket while under pressure but still making the throw. Brady is a master at moving his feet just enough to stay in the protection, but never taking his eyes off his receivers.
The turf at Gillette Stadium is very soft, packed with plenty of small rubber granules that act as soil. Kicks resemble a golf swing as the rubber divots fly.
Brenton Bersin was targeted twice, had two receptions, and racked up 42 yards. People laugh when Bersin is mentioned as a number two receiver, but I don't understand why. He does everything well, from catching....
... to run blocking. People overlook the fact that Bersin is 6'3 and 210 pounds. Bigger and stronger than Brandon Lafell.
At the end of the night, the entire Panther bench looked deflated. Notice all of the pursed lips.....
Psychologists will tell you that particular facial expression means the patient is feeling unsure, frustrated, or disappointed.
I'd say that sounds about right.