PHOTO: Carolina Panthers' Kris Mangum (86) is hit as he jumps past New England Patriots' Asante Samuel (22) during the second quarter, Sunday Sept. 18, 2005, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Patriots Need To Improve Focus
By Scout.com Staff
It does not get any easier for the defending champs. After an ugly performance against Carolina in a hostile environment, the Patriots go back on the road to take on an equally tough and physical team in the Pittsburgh Steelers, who sit at an impressive 2-0 having outscored their two opponents by a 61-14 count.
The Patriots are back at the drawing board following a road loss in which their supposed explosive offense was grounded by a physical Panthers defense that included a ferocious pass rush. Pittsburgh figures to bring more of the same this week.
"You think we're going to win any games playing like that?" coach Bill Belichick asked rhetorically. "If we play like that, it's going to be hard to win any game."
The Patriots made their share of miscues in the season opener but still picked up a home win over Oakland. Last week they failed to clean up their game and the mistakes mounted. And it cost them.
Penalties, turnovers, poor throws to open receivers, dropped passes and abysmal special teams play plagued New England, which now will face three defending division champs over the next three weeks.
"We have a lot to get better, and we don't have much time to do it," veteran wide receiver Troy Brown said. "And it won't be easy. Every week is hard. You can't win when you make too many mistakes like we did (Sunday)."
It's rare that the Patriots are forced to explain a mistake-filled performance. They have proven to be the most consistent team in football over the past two seasons, which is why one would expect them to clean up their act this week, although winning in Pittsburgh will be tough with a flawless performance.
The Patriots have not produced at all in the running game and will now face staunch Steelers run defense that limited the Titans' Chris Brown to 63 yards and the Texans' Domanick Davis to 59. New England's Corey Dillon had 36 rushing yards Sunday in Carolina on the heels of a 63-yard effort against Oakland. He will be hard-pressed to get back on track this week, which will mean quarterback Tom Brady will need a much-improved effort for the Pats to have a chance.
The Patriots (1-1) could not overcome a slew of mistakes that included three turnovers, and they fell to Carolina 27-17 in Charlotte.
Tom Brady was sacked only twice, but he was pressured throughout the day and was erratic and hurried. After completing nine of his first 14 throws for 156 yards and a touchdown, he finished just 23-for-44 for 270 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Brady also lost a fumble deep in his own territory that led to a Panthers touchdown.
Carolina was hardly dominant offensively, but took advantage of terrific field position thanks to some solid special teams play that included a 76-yard punt return to the Pats 13-yard line with 2:10 left in the half.
--CB Randall Gay was carted to the locker room after suffering a lower left leg injury with 14:45 left in the first half. He broke up a deep pass to Carolina's Steve Smith, who appeared to step on Gay's leg as he landed. Gay did not return.
--DL Richard Seymour was questionable with a thigh injury, but started at defensive end against Carolina in the Pats' 3-4 front. He finished the game with four tackles.
--QB Tom Brady did not have his most memorable game against Carolina, but his 1-yard TD pass to tight end Daniel Graham was his 100th regular-season touchdown pass. It came in his 64th career game.
--WR/KR Bethel Johnson made the trip to Carolina even though a thigh injury caused him to be inactive for the game. He should be available for the Steelers game.
--CB Duane Starks likely will draw a start in Pittsburgh because of injuries to Tyrone Poole, Chad Scott and Randall Gay. Don't be surprised to see Hank Poteat brought back into the fold or perhaps even Troy Brown getting some defensive reps in practice this week. The Pats are down to three healthy cornerbacks, including inexperienced rookie Ellis Hobbs.
--S Rodney Harrison discussed the dislike between the Panthers and Patriots. "The teams have respect for each other," he said, and "a pretty strong dislike for each other, too. But they wanted this game and they won it."
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