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All eyes were on Carolina Saturday night with the hope of seeing improvements from the Super Bowl Champions. "The Panthers came along at the right time," says Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. "You knew they were going to be intense from the opening kickoff because they wanted to avenge the Super Bowl loss. And they were. That improved the Patriots' intensity level, which they desperately needed to do."
Like many of his peers, Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant sees more positive than negative coming out of the loss to Carolina. "When the starters' night ended, the Patriots had a 17-10 lead and Tom Brady had thrown touchdown passes to tight ends Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson, generally moving his team well," writes Greenberg. "And the defense, which looked so shaky in Cincinnati, acquitted itself fairly well against quarterback Jake Delhomme."
Dan Pires of The Standard Times reviews the game, pointing out an unexpected decision made regarding Tom Brady's backups. "In the fourth quarter, instead of Rohan Davey, it was Kliff Kingsbury who would take [Brady's] place," writes Pires. "The move to bring Kingsbury came as a surprise, especially with last season's No. 2 (Davey) standing there in full uniform. The move to bring in Kingsbury was perhaps an indication that Davey's spot on the team is more in doubt than you might think."
Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call writes "For once, it wasn't about whether the New England Patriots won or lost, but how they played the game." Parente also quotes Coach Bill Belichick as saying "I think we're on the right track, but we'll see how this week's practice goes and we'll judge it after the next exhibition game. There's still a lot of room for improvement and we have some time to work on things that need to be fixed."
Michael Felger of The Boston Herald was impressed with Watson's performance. In his first extended action since ending his contract holdout, Watson caught six balls, including one for a touchdown. "He has the size, speed and intelligence to handle a multitude of roles - and most were on display against the Panthers," writes Felger.
Also in the Herald, Kevin Mannix writes about the steady gains being made by Corey Dillon, who rushed a pre-season high 13 times, for 50 yards. "He's getting there, fans," writes Mannix. "And those waiting for Corey Dillon to start showing the dominance they expected from the former Bengal can be encouraged by the opinions of the running back, his quarterback and his coach."
In today's notebook, Felger reports on Belichick's decision to sit Ty Law out of Saturday night's game, as well as the injury suffered by Troy Brown.
With their next exhibition game just three days away (Thursday night against Jacksonville), and the season opener seven days later, the Patriots have much to do this week. "Aside from getting ready for the Colts (and the Jaguars), New England has cuts to make by the end of business tomorrow to get down to just 65 active players on its roster," writes Tom Curran of The Providence Journal.
Ian Clark of The Union Leader reports on the improvement of the Patriots offensive line, a unit under much scrutiny this pre-season. "The offensive line gave Brady plenty of time. On Brady's long touchdown strike to Daniel Graham, Brady had all day to find his man and then delivered a perfect pass. The O line did struggle with false starts, holding and assorted other penalties that need to be addressed before this group gets a "ready-for-prime time" grade," writes Clark.