FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — If this was the dress rehearsal, the Carolina Panthers have some serious work to do before taking off for Tampa in two weeks.
New England quarterback Tom Brady carved up the Panthers’ defense to the tune of 204 yards and two touchdowns Friday night in the Patriots’ 30-7 win against Carolina at Gillette Stadium.
The loss dropped the Panthers to 1-2 in the preseason, with their final exhibition set for next week at Pittsburgh. Panthers coach Ron Rivera traditionally has sat most of his starters in the last exhibition.
The Patriots beat the Panthers in every phase in what was the second-worst exhibition loss in Carolina’s 20-year history. The Panthers lost 35-10 at Jacksonville in a 1999 exhibition.
But if you want the abridged version of what went wrong for the Panthers, start with this: They failed to put even the slightest pressure on Brady, while Cam Newton was under duress all night.
Newton was sacked three times and spent most of the second half in the training room getting treatment — either on his surgically repaired left ankle, his midsection or both.
Newton came out of the game for one play in the first half after tweaking his right side during a 7-yard scramble. He immediately returned to the game, and was in for the first series of the third quarter before backup Derek Anderson took over.
Newton was 8-of-12 passing for 88 yards, but was sacked three times.
Meanwhile, Brady completed 17 of 21 passes for a quarterback rating of 138.8 (a perfect rating is 158.3). Brady’s performance was aided greatly by the Panthers’ inability to get so much as a hand on him.
The Panthers — playing without defensive ends Charles Johnson, who was in Charlotte with a pulled hamstring, and Greg Hardy, who left in the first half with a shoulder injury, never sacked Brady or either of the Pats’ other quarterbacks.
Only a Joe Webb-to-D.C. Jefferson touchdown pass with 1:12 remaining kept the Panthers from getting shut out.
It’s not the first time Brady, the two-time MVP, has carved up a defense. And he did it in the first half with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year on the bench.
But it had to be a little disconcerting to the Panthers’ coaches to watch Brady take his offense down the field twice in the second quarter to put the Patriots up 13-0 at halftime.
After sitting out a series, Brady returned and led New England on a pair of scoring drives against a Panthers’ defense that was missing middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who came out after playing three series.
Both Patriots’ drives began on their 9. They went 91 yards in 14 plays on the first one, taking more than seven minutes off the clock before Brady found running back Shane Vereen for a 40-yard touchdown on third-and-7.
Vereen came out of the backfield on a wheel route along the sideline, and outside linebacker A.J. Klein was slow to react.
The Panthers received a scare on the ensuing series when quarterback Newton briefly left the game following his scramble.
Rivera hoped Newton would get to work in the two-minute offense in what figures to be his final exhibition game. Instead, it was Brady who took over inside his 10 with 1:47 remaining in the half after a Panthers’ punt.
Brady, who was not sacked in the first half, quickly drove the Patriots into Carolina territory before Stephen Gostkowski booted a 60-yard field goal that just cleared the crossbar with 3 seconds left in the half.
The Patriots outgained the Panthers 194-94 in the first half. For the game, New England held a 405 to 271 edge in total yardage.
Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones got two of the sacks on Newton, who also held the ball too long on a coverage sack.
One of the only bright spots for the Panthers was rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin, who caught five passes for 47 yards.
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