Patriots-Panthers Takeaways: Defense Still A Complete Mess After Week 4

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The New England Patriots’ defensive communication issues were supposed to fade away after Week 1. Uh, bad news: It seems like they’re only worsening.

The Patriots’ defense continues to leave receivers wide open for big plays and scores all too frequently. And it doesn’t seem to be a talent issue.

The biggest question now is whether the Patriots’ defense can mend these issues. It would go a long way toward fixing what best could be described as the worst Patriots defense of the Bill Belichick era.

Here’s how the Patriots’ pass defenders fared individually against the Panthers.

PASS COVERAGE
Stephon Gilmore: 3-3, 81 yards, two TDs
Devin McCourty: 3-4, 62 yards
Malcolm Butler: 5-6, 55 yards, INT, PBU
Patrick Chung: 1-1, 39 yards
Eric Rowe: 4-6, 36 yards
Kyle Van Noy: 1-3, 9 yards
Elandon Roberts: 1-1, 6 yards
Jonathan Jones: 1-2, 3 yards
Marquis Flowers: 1-1, 0 yards

— It was a horrible day at the office for the Patriots’ pass defense, which had multiple communication issues in coverage. The Patriots left running back Fozzy Whitaker wide open on a 28-yard touchdown, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin open on 43- and 39-yard receptions and wide receiver Devin Funchess open for a 10-yard touchdown. Gilmore appeared to be in the middle of the breakdowns on three of those plays. He also was flagged twice on third down for illegal use of hands, hands to the face. We’ll get into those breakdowns more in our film review.

— Safety Patrick Chung appeared to be in the middle of a coverage breakdown, too. He also was flagged for holding on a running play.

— Butler took a risk by joining Rowe in coverage on Damiere Byrd on a wheel route, leaving Funchess wide open on what would have been a first down. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton still targeted Byrd, and Butler picked off the pass. Butler had a pass breakup called back on one of Gilmore’s penalties.

PASS RUSH
Trey Flowers: two QB hits, hurry
Adam Butler: two hurries
Dont’a Hightower: sack, hurry
Kyle Van Noy: sack
Deatrich Wise: hurry
Malcom Brown: hurry
Lawrence Guy: hurry

— Flowers continues to be impressive as a pass rusher. He’s been the Patriots’ best defensive player through four weeks, and it’s not particularly close.

— Wise had a sack called back on one of Gilmore’s penalties.

— Hightower’s sack forced a punt and allowed the Patriots to tie the game. That sack would have been remembered as one of the plays of the season if the Patriots had won.

PASS PROTECTION
Nate Solder: two QB hits, five hurries
Marcus Cannon: two sacks, two QB hits, two hurries
Joe Thuney: three hurries
David Andrews: QB hit, hurry
Tom Brady: sack
Shaq Mason: hurry

— Solder let up seven total pressures, but it was still an improvement for him over Week 3. Cannon had trouble blocking defensive end Julius Peppers.

— Brady also essentially got himself sacked when he held onto the ball for too long and did a spin move into a defender.

PASS ACCURACY
1. Underthrown to Brandin Cooks
2. Overthrown under pressure to James White
3. Thrown behind Chris Hogan, dropped
4. Overthrown to Jacob Hollister
5. Thrown behind Rob Gronkowski, broken up
6. Thrown wide to Hogan
7. Underthrown to Hogan, broken up
8. Thrown low to Danny Amendola, dropped
9. Underthrown to Dwayne Allen
10. Overthrown to Cooks
11. Thrown low to White
12. Thrown behind Cooks, dropped
13. Throw to Hogan broken up

— Brady won’t earn AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors again, but he was still solid. It was, however, Brady’s most inaccurate game since Week 1.

— All of Brady’s incompletions, even the drops, weren’t perfectly placed.

— Brady was 3-of-8 on deep passes for 86 yards. He also drew a 33-yard pass interference penalty on a deep pass to Gronkowski.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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