Tom Brady and the New England Patriots needed to end the first half with a glimmer of positivity Friday night.
Brady and the Patriots’ first-team offense, which continues to be ravaged by injuries, were having trouble moving the football through two and-a-half preseason games. Brady had two interceptions going into the end of the second quarter, and suddenly he was facing one of his favorite situations, a two-minute drill with the ball on the Patriots’ 20-yard line.
It didn’t take long for Brady to carve through the Carolina Panthers’ defense, and if anything, his touchdown pass on a fade route to tight end Scott Chandler came too soon, leaving 50 seconds on the clock for the Panthers to work with.
The drive put to rest any concerns about Brady as he faces numerous distractions this summer. Whenever the starting quarterback takes the field, he’ll be just fine, despite some subpar preseason stats.
Here are six stars of the Patriots’ 17-16 preseason win over the Panthers:
Easley showed what made him the 29th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on the Panthers’ fourth offensive drive to begin the second quarter. He forced a four-yard loss with a run stuff on the drive’s first play, then helped force a punt with a 12-yard sack near the end of the drive.
Easley has run hot and cold this summer in training camp practices and preseason games, but this was a step in the right direction for the defensive lineman.
The big tight end flashed early in his Patriots preseason debut, in which starter Rob Gronkowski sat out. He had three catches on four targets from Tom Brady for 40 yards with a touchdown.
Chandler missed the Patriots first two preseason games with injuries, but he showed how dominant he can be in his first real action in blue, red and silver. He and Gronkowski should be matchup nightmares in the red zone.
Butler and fellow starting cornerback Tarell Brown each had pass breakups. The only reception Butler allowed was on a screen play with an early pick.
Butler got lucky when he was beat by Philly Brown, but the Panthers receiver dropped a would-be touchdown.
Lewis showed off his quickness, agility and versatility in the Patriots’ third preseason game. He carried the ball three times for 12 yards and caught four passes for 20 yards with a touchdown. He lined up outside at wide receiver and ran a slant on his touchdown reception.
Johnson brought the heat late in the game when both teams’ reserves were on the field. He recorded pressures on three consecutive plays and didn’t miss a beat after sitting out the Patriots’ second preseason game following an impressive Week 1 performance against the Green Bay Packers. Johnson has an uphill battle to make the roster, but he’s opening eyes in the preseason.
It was Mayo’s first action in a game since injuring his knee in Week 6 of the 2014 season. The veteran linebacker looked just as good and dependable as ever with two standout run stuffs in the first quarter. The Patriots could have a hard time trying to figure out how to put Mayo, linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower, and defensive ends Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and Jabaal Sheard on the field at the same time.
Thumbnail photo via Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports Images
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