Best and Worst: Panthers 33, Patriots 30
SIGHT FOR SORE D
Dont'a Hightower, who’s been down since the opener against the Chiefs, was back on the field for the start of the game.
Late in the first quarter, Cam Newton threw into deep double coverage on a third-and-3 and was easily picked by Malcolm Butler. At that juncture, it appeared Newton was following the same path he’d been on in the first three weeks.
Newton rebounded from that pick to go 11 for 13 for 189 yards with two touchdowns in the first 30 minutes. He threw two touchdowns in the first 180 minutes of the season.
WITH THE KISS
Stephen Gostkowski squeezed a 58-yard field goal in off the right upright as time expired in the first half, getting the carom off the inside of the pole. It was the longest in Gostkowski’s career and also the longest in Patriots history.
BUST, BUST, BUST
The Patriots got wires crossed time and again in coverage during the second quarter. On the first occasion, it appeared Elandon Roberts neglected to stay home with Fozzy Whitaker on the weak side of the defense and a screen back there left the Panthers with four players on the perimeter and no Patriots in sight. That turned into a 28-yard touchdown. On the second occasion, Kelvin Benjamin somehow found himself alone on the left side for a 43-yard gain on third-and-9. Two plays later, Devin Funchess scored on a 10-yard toss from Newton after the Patriots blew another field goal. The common denominator in a lot of these busts is Stephon Gilmore.
OP AYE, YI, YI
Rob Gronkowski got whistled for a very questionable offensive pass interference in the first half, wiping out a 10-yard reception. On the next play, Tom Brady extended a play by rolling right and then found a recalculating Gronk down the right sideline where he drew a 33-yard defensive pass interference.
PACKING A PUNCH
Rookie running back Christian McCaffrey delivered a surprisingly authoritative stiff arm on Eric Rowe that drove Rowe back 6 yards in the first half.
FLOWERS IN BOOM
Trey Flowers thwarted a Panthers scoring drive by punching the ball loose from Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart with 12:19 left in the third. The Patriots took over on their own 7.
NOT ENOUGH CLUB
Tom Brady badly underthrew tight end Dwayne Allen in the third quarter on a second-down play. Allen, who still doesn’t have a catch this season, tried to plead his case to officials then threw the ball into the bench area when it was ruled incomplete.
Nobody knows who they’re supposed to be covering.
MOVING AT AN EYE-POPPING CLIP
The Panthers had 16 plays of 10 or more yards in the first 47 minutes of the game.