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Game Preview: Patriots at Panthers

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WEEK 9 · Sun 11/07 · 1:00 PM EST

Patriots

New England Patriots

AT

Panthers

Carolina Panthers

CBS / WBZ
98.5 FM The Sports Hub
BANK OF AMERICA STADIUM

The New England Patriots play on the road for the second straight week, the team's only two-game road stretch of the season, when they travel to face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon in Charlotte.

The Patriots evened their record at 4-4 after a 27-24 win last Sunday at the Los Angeles Chargers. A victory this week will give the Patriots a winning record following a 2-4 start. New England will attempt to break a two-game losing streak to Carolina following a 24-20 loss at Carolina on Nov. 18, 2013 and a 33-30 loss in their most recent meeting between the two teams on Oct. 1, 2017 at Gillette Stadium.

SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS

Points may be at a premium in Sunday's matchup between the Patriots and Panthers.

By Paul Perillo

When the Patriots run - Edge: Panthers

The Patriots continue to try to get things going on the ground but have been rather inconsistent thus far. Damien Harris had back-to-back 100-yard games headed to Los Angeles and figured to have a big day against the worst run defense in football, but the Chargers held him largely in check (23 carries, 80 yards, 3.5-yard average). As a team the Patriots picked up 141 yards on the ground but needed 39 carries to do so and averaged only 3.6 per rush. The Panthers are much better against the run than the Chargers, ranking 13th in the league allowing 106.8 yards per game. Opponents have churned out 4.4 per carry against Carolina, which ranks 21st, but the Patriots will need to be better up front in order to take advantage. Rhamondre Stevenson came off the bench to pick up some tough yards and could be an option as well. Carolina boasts some bulk up front with Brian Burns, Derrick Brown and DaQuan Jones playing in front of an active group of linebackers led by Shaq Thompson and Jermaine Carter. The Patriots seem to have settled on an offensive line that includes Ted Karras at left guard and Mike Onwenu at right tackle and that group has stabilized things up front. That consistency will need to continue against the Panthers.

When the Patriots pass - Edge: Panthers

Carolina's secondary has been outstanding despite losing some valuable pieces along the way. Rookie Jaycee Horn, Juston Burris and Myles Hartsfield are all on IR and C.J. Henderson missed the Falcons win with a shoulder injury. But the cupboard isn't bare as Carolina welcomed Stephon Gilmore to the mix last week and he joins A.J. Bouye, Donte Jackson and Keith Taylor at corner for a secondary that ranks second in the league allowing 189 yards per game through the air. Safeties Jeremy Chinn and Sean Chandler are steady on the back end, and the sticky coverage has allowed the Panthers pass rush to get involved. Carolina has 21 sacks on the season, led by former Cardinals first-round pick Haason Reddick's 7.5. Burns is second on the list with 4.5, giving the Panthers some versatility up front. The Patriots protection has been better of late as Mac Jones has been sacked just twice over the last two games. But the Chargers flashed some pressure and caused some indecision from the rookie last week, and Jones will need to deal with the rush more effectively on Sunday in Charlotte. Jones has done a nice job of spreading the ball around of late, but it would be nice to see one player emerge as a go-to threat on a more consistent basis.

When the Panthers run - Edge: Patriots

As has been the case for most of the past two seasons, Carolina has been without its leading running back Christian McCaffrey since September. The all-purpose back is eligible to return from IR this week and Panthers coach Matt Rhule said he hopes to have him back in the mix if not this week then for Week 10. So, his status remains very much up in the air, leaving the Panthers ground game in the hands of Chuba Hubbard. The rookie out of Oklahoma State has been serviceable, leading the team with 391 yards rushing on 108 carries for a 3.6-yard average, but lacks the dynamic element McCaffrey brings. The Panthers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to rushing, averaging 114.5 yards per game, but much of that has come from quarterback Sam Darnold. He had 66 yards against Atlanta before leaving with a concussion, helping Carolina pile up 203 yards on the ground in Atlanta. Carolina will also use Ameer Abdullah and Royce Freeman, but Hubbard will see the lion's share of the carries if McCaffrey remains out. The Patriots run defense has improved as of late but has been susceptible to big plays. If the front seven can fix those issues, this is a matchup the Patriots should control on Sunday.

When the Panthers pass - Edge: Patriots

Darnold has been up and down throughout the season, getting off to a hot start before being benched during the final game of a four-game losing streak. On the season he ranks near the bottom (30th) with a 76.8 passer rating and has just seven touchdowns against eight interceptions. He was playing well in Atlanta before leaving in the second half, but even then the big plays that he was making during a three-game winning streak to open the season were lacking. And then he was knocked out of the game and will need to clear concussion protocol before returning. If he can't go backup P.J. Walker will make the start. In limited time this year he's completed just 3 of 20 passes, but he did post a victory in Week 11 last season, completing 24 of 34 for 238 yards and a touchdown to go with two interceptions in a win over Detroit in 2020 in his only career start. The Patriots secondary is coming off one of its strongest efforts of the season against the Chargers. J.C. Jackson could see a lot of D.J. Moore, who is far and away the Panthers top target with 50 receptions for 645 yards and three TDs. Robbie Anderson is next with just 18 grabs, so finding a way to limit Moore will go a long way toward stopping what has been a very limited Panthers passing game that ranks 28th in the league. The Patriots should be able to keep the momentum going in that regard.

Special Teams - Edge: Patriots

Gunner Olszewski probably wishes he could play every game at SoFi Stadium against the Chargers. Last season he took a punt back 70 yards for a touchdown and another 61 yards. On Sunday he set up short fields for the Patriots with returns of 21, 22 and 27 yards. His spark helped an offense that was struggling throughout the day. His resurgence has augmented the stellar work of kicker Nick Folk, who is on a short list of candidates for Patriots MVP. He made four more field goals against the Chargers, including a pair from 48 yards, and still has just one miss all season. Carolina's Zane Gonzalez has been solid making 13 of 15 field goals including kicks of 51 and 57 yards Sunday against Atlanta. Punter Lachlan Edwards replaced the injured Joseph Charlton and averaged 43.8 yards on four attempts against the Falcons. Alex Erickson and Abdullah have handled the return duties but neither has been effective. The Panthers allow just 5.6 yards per punt return, so it's possible that Olszewski will find things a little tougher this week than he has the last two. The Patriots tend to continue the momentum when it comes to special teams and their recent uptick gives them the edge against Carolina.

Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) runs during New England's game against the Carolina Panthers in 2019.
Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) runs during New England's game against the Carolina Panthers in 2019.

SERIES HISTORY

The New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers will meet for the seventh time in the regular season and for the eighth time overall.

The team's last played in the regular season in 2017 at Gillette stadium with Carolina leaving with a 33-30 victory on Oct. 1. It will be the Patriots first regular season visit to Carolina since a Monday Night Football game on Nov. 18, 2013 when Carolina edged the Patriots, 24-20. The Patriots have lost their last two games against Carolina.

The Panthers holds a 4-2 edge in the regular season, including a 2-1 record at Carolina.

The Patriots and Panthers met in Super Bowl XXXVIII on Feb. 2, 2004. The Patriots-Panthers Super Bowl is widely believed to be among the most entertaining Super Bowls ever played, as the Panthers took a fourth-quarter lead only to see the Patriots came up with a game-winning field goal to clinch the see-saw battle in the final seconds.

SERIES TRENDS

Overall Record (including playoffs): 3-4

  • Record in Foxborough. 1-2
  • Record in Charlotte: 1-2
  • Record in Houston: 1-0

Total Points in the Series: Patriots 174, Panthers 149

Patriots' Largest Margin of Victory: 32 points (01/06/02)

Patriots' Largest Margin of Defeat: 10 points (09/18/05)

Highest Combined Point Total: 63 points (10/01/17)

Lowest Combined Point Total: 37 points (10/29/95)

Games Decided by Seven or Fewer Points: 4

Games Decided by 21 or More Points: 1

Current Win Streak: Panthers, two games

TALE OF THE TAPE

Table inside Article
2021 REGULAR SEASON NEW ENGLAND CAROLINA
Record 4-4 4-4
Divisional Standings 2nd 3rd
Total Yards Gained 2,837 2,628
Total Offense (Rank) 354.6 (15) 328.5 (25)
Rush Offense 101.1 (22) 114.5 (16)
Pass Offense 253.5 (13) 214.0 (28)
Points Per Game 25.8 (10) 20.6 (22)
Total Yards Allowed 2,823 2,365
Total Defense 352.9 (13) 295.6 (2)
Rush Defense 112.8 (16) 106.8 (13)
Pass Defense 240.1 (14) 188.9 (2)
Points Allowed/Game 20.5 (8) 19.9 (5)
Possession Avg. 30:00 32:25
Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost 15/118 24/135
Sacks Made/Yards 18/121 21/150
Passing TD/Int (off.) 10/6 7/8
Passing TD/Int (def.) 12/10 12/6
Total Touchdowns 21 17
Penalties Against/Yards 46/444 55/393
Punts/Avg. 27/44.0 40/38.5
Field Goals Made/Att. 20/21 15/17
Takeaway/Giveaway Ratio +1 (13T) -4 (23T)

Patriots.com's Mike Dussault shares his players to watch ahead of the Patriots Week 9 matchup against the Carolina Panthers.

BEST INTER-CONFERENCE RECORD SINCE 2002

The New England Patriots own a 59-20 (.747) record vs. NFC teams since realignment in 2002, the best inter-conference record in the NFL during that time.

CONNECTIONS

FORMER PATRIOTS

  • CB Stephon Gilmore (2017-2021)
  • Coaching Asst. Terrance Knighton (2016)
  • WR Devin Smith (2021)

WHAT TO LOOK FOR...

  • Damien Harris is looking to score a rushing touchdown in his fifth straight game. If successful, he will tie for the third most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown in team history.
  • Nick Folk has gone 4-for-4 on field goal attempts in all three road wins in 2021. The last NFL kicker to kick four or more field goals in consecutive games was Miami's Jason Sanders who had back-to-back weeks in 2020 when he was 5-for-5 on field goal attempts. The last Patriots kicker to do it was Adam Vinatieri in 2004 when he was 4-for-4 on Nov. 7 at St. Louis followed by 5-for-5 on Nov. 14 vs. Buffalo.
  • Folk enters this week first in the NFL with 20 field goals. Folk has never led the NFL in field goals. Since 1970, the Patriots have had a player finish first in the NFL in field goals five times – Tony Franklin in 1986, Adam Vinatieri in 2004 and Stephen Gostkowski in 2008, 2013 and 2014.
  • Gunner Olszewski, who led the NFL with a team record 17.3-yard punt return average in 2020, is currently second in the NFL with an 13.3-yard punt return average. The last time that a player has averaged 10-plus yards per return with at least 20 returns in consecutive seasons was Darren Sproles in 2014 and 2015. Ted Ginn accomplished the feat for six consecutive seasons, from 2010-15.
  • Mac Jones has completed over 70 percent of his passes in five of his first eight NFL games, the only rookie quarterback to ever do so. The rookie record is nine games by Dak Prescott. The NFL record is 13 games by Drew Brees in 2017.
  • Mac Jones has passed for 1,997 yards during the first eight games and is on pace for 4,244 passing yards for the season. He leads all rookie quarterbacks in passing yards (1,997) and completions (192), completion percentage (68.1) and touchdown passes (9). Only three rookie quarterbacks have ever passed for at least 4,000 yards.
  • After eight games, Jones' completion percentage is 68.1. The best completion percentage for a season by a rookie quarterback is Dak Prescott at 67.7 percent in 2016.
  • Jones has 192 completions this season and joins Joe Burrow (221 completions in 2020), Justin Herbert (201 in 2020) and Andrew Luck (190 in 2021) as the only rookie quarterbacks with at least 190 completions in their first eight starts.
  • Matthew Judon leads the Patriots with 8 sacks. His career high is 9½ sacks in 2019 when he played for Baltimore.
  • Judon has registered two games with at least two sacks in 2021. The Patriots record for the most two-sack games in a season is six by Andre Tippett in 1984.
  • J.C. Jackson is tied with Miami's Xavien Howard for the most interceptions since he entered the NFL as a rookie free agent in 2018 with a total of 20 picks.
  • Brandon Bolden enters this week with 20 receptions for 162 yards. He needs two more receptions to set a new single-season career high. He had 21 receptions in 2019 with the Patriots. He needs 19 receiving yards to move past his career high of 180 receiving yards in 2015 with the Patriots.
  • WR Jakobi Meyers completed two passes for 45 yards in Week 4 against Tampa Bay. He is now 4-of-4 for 88 yards with two touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his career. The Patriots have never had a wide receiver complete more than two passes in a single season. Julian Edelman completed two passes in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and Harold Jackson completed two passes in 1980. In addition to the Tampa Bay game, Meyers completed two passes, both for touchdowns, in 2020.
  • The most passes thrown by a non quarterback in a single season for the Patriots were by RB Andy Johnson, who was 7-of-9 for 194 yards with four touchdowns in 1981 and RB Dick Christy, who was 6-of-11 for 94 yards with two touchdowns in 1960.
  • Jakobi Meyers has two 2-point conversions in 2021 after converting vs. Dallas on Oct. 17 and at LA Chargers on Oct. 31. Only 17 players have had three in one season. The NFL record for most in a season is four by Todd Heap of Baltimore in 2003.
  • Jakobi Meyers has three total 2-point conversions and needs one more to tie Julian Edelman and Gino Cappelletti for the team's all-time career high with four 2-point conversions
broadcast-info-wk9

BROADCAST INFORMATION

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Adam Archuleta as the color analyst. AJ Ross will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Jonathan Segal and directed by Mark Grant.

NATIONAL RADIO: Sunday's game will be broadcast to a national audience on Sports USA. Josh Appel will call the game with Charles Arbuckle providing analysis.

LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 35 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.

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