By: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
September 18, 2005

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CHARLOTTE, NC -- Mistakes, penalties, turnovers, you name it, New England committed them all against the Carolina Panthers during their 27-17 loss against the Panthers on Sunday.

It was a pretty difficult afternoon for the defending champs, who committed 12 penalties for 86 yards including six false start penalties. There were dropped passes, balls thrown way off the mark, along with three turnovers committed by New England in the game. It was a recipe for disaster, and head coach Bill Belichick told the media after the game that his team is going to have a difficult time winning if they don't cut down on these mental mistakes.

"Do you think we're going to win any more games playing like this?" Patriots coach Bill Belichick said to the media after the game. "We can't play like this. We have to play better. We have to coach better. This won't be good enough, against anyone we play."

To make matters worse for New England they went into Sunday's game down two defensive backs after Tyrone Poole and Chad Scott were both inactive for the game. They lost another in Randall Gay early in the game with what appeared to be an ankle injury, and later lost an offensive lineman after Steve Neal left with what was reported to be a back injury.

While the Patriots are no strangers to overcoming injury problems or hostile environments, they certainly struggled on Sunday. Quarterback Tom Brady was erratic during the game and when he was on target saw several of his best receivers drop balls. While all this was going on he also had guys his face all afternoon with Carolina's defense getting pressure on him.

It was tough to take, and when it was over Brady acknowledged that his team has a lot of work to do.

"It's not very good," Brady told reporters after the game. "I think that goes all the way around. It's not going to get any easier but at the same time we realize we've got to improve a lot, we've got to get better and we're going to try to do the best we can to learn from the mistakes we made today and go out there and try to play a better game next week."

The offense struggled from the start with Matt Light getting called for a false start penalty on the first play of the game and didn't really get going until their third possession. On their third play from scrimmage Brady took advantage of a blown coverage by the Panthers after they left Troy Brown all alone on the sideline. On the play Brown was lined up in the slot with Branch lined up on the outside, and when Branch ran his route inside he was double teamed, and Brown drifted out, caught the ball, and took it 71 yards up the sideline before being knocked out of bounds at the one yard line. One play later Brady found Daniel Graham in the endzone for a touchdown to put the Patriots up 7-0.

But Carolina answered on their next possession, with quarterback Jake Delhomme connecting with DeShaun Foster for 23 yards followed by a 41 yard pass to a wide open Ricky Proehl on a blown coverage by the Patriots secondary. One play later Stephen Davis ran it in from one yard out for the touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.

After both teams traded punts, the Patriots offense drove from their own 14 yard line down to the Carolina 23 yard line before Brady was intercepted by Will Witherspoon at the Panthers 28. Eleven plays later kicker John Kasay gave Carolina the lead at 10-7 with a 51 yard field goal and from there the Panthers wouldn't look back.

They forced the Patriots to punt on their next possession, and then Chris Gamble returned it 76 yards all the way down to the New England 13. Three plays later Davis was in the endzone again and Carolina found themselves up 10 leading 17-7 which ended up being the score at the half.

Things didn't get any better to start the second half with Rodney Harrison being called for an unnecessary roughness penalty on their opening drive. The penalty helped set up a 52-yard field goal by Kasay to give the Panthers a 20-7 lead.

New England would add a 45-yard field goal on their ensuing possession by Adam Vinatieri which cut the lead to 10, and then got a big play by their defense.

On Carolina's first play from scrimmage Delhomme couldn't find anyone open and sat back in the pocket for a good 8 seconds. On the play he attempted to connect with Davis who had drifted into the flat, but at that point Davis had turned upfield and Delhomme didn't see him, and instead threw it right to Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel who ran it back 24 yards for the touchdown to cut the lead to three at 20-17 with 6:08 remaining in the third quarter.

New England's defense stepped up on their next possession and forced a punt, and Brady and the offense went back to work. But a false start penalty by Russ Hochstein, who was in the game for the injured Neal, put the offense in a first and 15 situation. Two straight incompletions by Brady found them in third and long and the Panthers defense went after the New England quarterback. Mike Rucker knocked the ball out of Brady's hand right before he released it and Julius Peppers recovered, running it down to the New England 12 yard line. Four plays later the Panthers were back in the endzone, giving Carolina their final points of the game.

New England then went three offensive possessions without much success, but began moving the ball on their final drive of the game with just under four minutes left. However after getting to the Carolina 39-yard line, Brady connected with tight end Ben Watson who gained 7 yards. Unfortunately for the Patriots on the play while trying to push for the first down, Watson was stripped by Gamble and the ball was recovered by Dan Morgan, and from there all the Panthers needed to do was run out the clock to seal the victory.

So for now it's back to the drawing board for the Patriots who dropped to 1-1 on the season. They'll now spend this week going over what went wrong and will try to correct them heading into next weekend's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

"When you don't play well you're going to lose," said Brady. "It's not like things correct themselves, you've got to go out there and work hard to correct them and that's what we've to start to do, starting tomorrow."

"Losing sucks. Any way you cut it, it's no fun."


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