]()The Panther defense put up a spirited effort in this one, stopping the Patriots in their tracks
For the second week, the Patriots running game was stuffed to the tune of only 36 yards for Corey Dillon on 14 carries. Give all the credit to the Panthers defense. It not only negated Dillon but also harrassed Tom Brady, forcing a fumble and an interception. Brady was 23 of 44 for 270 yards with a touchdown and the pick.
The Patriots defense, despite the 27 points on the board, played a strong game. Stephen Davis was held to 77 yards on 25 carries and Jake Delhomme only accounted for 154 yards through the air (11 of 26 passing).
In the end, 12 New England penalties for 86 yards, special teams mistakes and the Panthers aggressive defense were the key factors to the Patriots dropping to 1-1 on the young season.
The early going was much like the beginning of Super Bowl XXXVIII with both teams punching it out on defense. Crowd noise may have contributed to two false start penalties on the Patriots in their first two possessions (six in all for the game) but those false starts certainly didn't help New England's chances. Still in the first quarter, a hands to the face penalty on Rosevelt Colvin negated a Duane Starks interception of Delhomme that would have set up the Patriots offense around the Carolina 40.
And so the stalemate continued until, with around four minutes left in the first quarter, the Panthers got caught in a coverage mix-up and Brady hit Brown all alone on the right side of the field. Brown then turned it down the sideline for a gain of 71 yards to the Panthers 1 where he was knocked out of bounds by Ken Lucas.
On the next play, Brady play-actioned and hit Daniel Graham all alone in the end zone. It was Brady's 100th touchdown pass of his career.
Carolina answered, first with a 23-yard completion to DeShaun Foster and then 41 yards to Patriots nemesis Ricky Proehl to the 1. Davis knocked it in from there but the play was actually a fumble as Davis lost control just before the ball reached the goal line. Even if the play was not ruled a fumble, the spot should have been short of the goal line. Incredibly, the Patriots did not challenge the play and the Panthers were credited with the score.
]()Brady had his team headed downfield later in the first half as far as the Panthers 23 but a hold on Dan Klecko on a second and 1 set up second and 11 from the 33. Brady looked to Brown but Will Witherspoon made a diving play on the ball for the interception to send things the other way.
A 12-yard pass to tight end to Kris Magnum with Delhomme under pressure moved the ball to the Patriots 35 but the Panthers had to settle on a 51-yard John Kasay field goal to take the lead at 10-7.
A special teams breakdown led to another Panthers score before the half. Chris Gamble took a 49-yard Josh Miller punt back 76 yards to the Patriots 13. Gamble started up the left sideline, slipping a wall of Patriots. He then zig-zagged his way downfield until Ben Watson caught him from behind.
New England's defense held Carolina to a third and 7 at the 10 but a pass interference penalty on Eugene Wilson in the end zone on Proehl placed the ball on the 1. Davis scored his second touchdown of the day immediately after and Carolina had a 10-point lead after 30 minutes of play.
Only 1 for 6 on third down conversions and 35 yards on the ground were keys to the Patriots having just seven points. Their six penalties for 44 yards didn't help either.
Rodney Harrison tacked on another 15 penalty yards, ripping the helmet off Foster after the whistle on the Panthers opening series of the second half. Carolina wound up with a 52-yard Kasay field goal for a 20-7 lead. A 13-yard completion to Proehl on third and 16 from the 48 put the ball within Kasay's range.
New England needed something good to happen on offense in a hurry before things got out of hand and managed a 45-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal to make the score 20-10. A 22-yard screen pass to Kevin Faulk bailed them out of a third and 10 and made the three points possible.
Something much better came on the Panthers next play from scrimmage and it came from the Patriots defense. Delhomme, with nowhere to throw, looked to dump off a pass to Davis but Davis left the spot just as Delhomme threw the ball. Long-armed Mike Vrabel snatched the ball above his head and took it 24 yards into the end zone for the score.
After a Patriots defensive stop it looked like the momentum might have swung their way until Mike Rucker hit Brady's arm as he went to pass late in the third quarter. The ball popped loose for a fumble and Julius Peppers picked it up on the run. He was tackled by Matt Light on the Patriots 12-yard line. Davis then ran for 10 yards to the 2 to end the third quarter and into the end zone to start the fourth.
The Patriots defense did its part, putting an end to the Carolina scoring, but the Patriots offense was having its troubles moving the ball. With 3:57 left in the game, Brady went into no-huddle mode and began to make progress, hitting Branch for 17 and Givens for 19 to the Panthers 45. A pass interference call on Ricky Manning, Jr., for holding Troy Brown gave New England a first down on the 39. Two plays later, Watson was fighting for extra yards after a short catch and had the ball stripped. Carolina recovered and that, essentially, was the ball game.
The Panthers successfully killed the remaining time off the clock and had a well-earned 27-17 win.
Notes: Randall Gay was taken to the locker room in the second quarter with a left leg injury. ... Stephen Neal left the game in the third quarter with a back injury and was replaced by Russ Hochstein at right guard. ... Inactives for the Patriots were: Matt Cassel (third QB); Andre' Davis; Chad Scott; James Sanders; Tyrone Poole; Tully Banta-Cain; Brandon Gorin; Bethel Johnson.
Inactives for the Panthers: Stefan LeFors (third QB); Drew Carter; Jamal Robertson; Dave Kadela; Geoff Hangartner; Michael Gaines; Jovan Haye' Atiyyah Ellison.