Takeaways from Panthers Loss To Patriots

For the first time this preseason, the Carolina Panthers were on the losing end with a 17-16 loss to the New England Patriots. In preseason though, the wins and losses are not necessarily the most important things. These are the top takeaways for the Panthers in their third preseason game.

Offense Starts Slow….Again

Earlier this week Carolina Panthers’ offensive coordinator Mike Shula said he was not concerned about the Panthers’ slow starts, according to ESPN’s David Newton. Against the Buffalo Bills, the Panthers had eight plays over their first two drives but on the third drive sustained a drive and picked up a touchdown.

Last week against the Dolphins, it seemed to be more of the same as the team started with two punts, an interception and then a turnover on downs on the first four drives.

Against the Patriots, the first team offense got extended playing time and it took until the third quarter for them to get into rhythm. In the first half, they only gained 109 yards over seven drives and only two field goals.

The first drive in the second half looked much better as the Panthers went 80 yards on nine plays and was able to finish the drive off with a two-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Mike Tolbert.

Generally, starters do not see much time in the final preseason game so this is usually the final test before the regular season. If the Panthers are able to get Devin Funchess back for that game it might be worth giving the first-team offense a series or two to get some reps in before their first game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.


Drops on Both Sides of the Ball

The Carolina Panthers struggled to hold onto the ball, on both sides of the ball. Wide receiver Corey Brown had a great opportunity in front of him to make a case to be the top wide receiver in this offense. Kelvin Benjamin, who is out for the season, and Devin Funchess, who was out with a hamstring injury, had a number of costly drops.

Brown was the second highest targeted wide receiver on the Panthers with seven but ended the game with only one reception for five yards. The wide receiver position has been hit very hard with injuries this year, and they could have had another last night with Jerricho Cotchery leaving with a groin injury. Brown is going to be a big part of this offense and he will need to try and correct this issue soon.

On the other side of the ball, cornerbacks Josh Norman and Bene Benwikere dropped what should have been interception. Tom Brady had an off night and already had two interception on his name and Norman and Benwikere could have made a bad night even worse.


Kony Ealy Is Starting to Heat Up

I am not sure what happened but defensive end Kony Ealy is starting to play like he did at the end of the 2014 season. He finished the regular season last year with a sack in each of the last three games. He now has a sack in each of the past two preseason games after a lackluster first preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.

The Panthers defense is desperately looking for a defensive end to start opposite Charles Johnson and the hope was Ealy could be that guy all along. The team has been without Johnson for the entire preseason so the second-year player has had plenty of opportunities to play. He didn’t capitalize on it against Buffalo without a single recorded sack but made up for it with a strip sack on Ryan Tannehill last Saturday and then a sack on Tom Brady last night.

There is a great deal of potential with Ealy and it seems like it is just a matter of whether or not it all comes together. If the past two games are an indication it looks like that could be happening sooner rather than later.

Follow me on Twitter @BrandonCroce.

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