FOXBORO, Mass. — Some assorted notes and nuggets from the New England Patriots’ 10-3 preseason win over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium:
— We got our first glimpse of the Patriots’ first-team defense in this game, and it did not disappoint.
New England’s defensive starters smothered Carolina’s top offense throughout the first half, sacking Cam Newton and backup Kyle Allen three times and allowing a total of 29 yards on 17 offensive plays (1.7 per snap).
“Obviously, we have a talented group,” safety Duron Harmon said. “A group with a lot of depth, and a group that still has to continue to grow and play together. We know that we have a lot of talent and depth on this team.”
While the Patriots have received positive contributions from reserve defensive backs like cornerbacks Joejuan Williams and Keion Crossen and safety Terrence Brooks, that depth is most evident up front, where New England has been able to roll out wave after wave of productive pass rushers.
Thirteen different Patriots defenders have recorded a sack through three preseason games: Chase Winovich (2.5), Derek Rivers (2), Byron Cowart (2.5), Ja’Whaun Bentley (1), Jamie Collins (1), Shilique Calhoun (1), Danny Shelton (1), Kyle Van Noy (1), Michael Bennett (1), Adam Butler (1), Ufomba Kamalu (1), Terez Hall (0.5) and Nick Thurman (0.5).
Van Noy, Butler and Bennett provided the Patriots’ three first-half sacks against the Panthers, with Kamalu adding another in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
“The first day (I got here), I saw that there were a lot of different guys,” Bennett said. “You’ve got guys like Chase, guys like Shilique, guys like Kyle. There’s a lot of different people. There’s not a lot of middle linebackers that can rush, and you’ve got (Dont’a) Hightower who can rush and Jamie. It’s just a lot of different people who can pass rush — Adam Butler. It’s a lot of different pass rushers.”
— Bennett’s sack, which came late in the second quarter, was his first in a Patriots uniform. Lining up over the nose on third-and-10, he engaged center Matt Paradis, then swam past him to drop Allen in the backfield.
“I can’t really walk you through it,” Bennett said after the game. “Y’all were watching it, so you know more than I do. I just lined up, pushed the guy and pushed him to the side and ran to the quarterback. That was it. … I just shoved him to the side, really. That’s all it comes down to.”
Asked how he was able to push the 300-pound Paradis aside with such ease, Bennett replied: “He’s 300 pounds? (He felt) pretty light.”
— All three of the Patriots’ preseason opponents have challenged pass interference non-calls, and none have been successful. Carolina swung and missed on two PI challenges: one involving Jason McCourty and the other targeting J.C. Jackson.
— The Panthers aren’t stocked with former Patriots the way the Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans are, but the Pats did see a few familiar faces on Carolina’s sideline. Among them: wide receiver Chris Hogan, who shared a hug with Tom Brady during pregame warmups.
Hogan played three seasons with the Patriots before signing with the Panthers this past spring.
— Newton didn’t give a postgame news conference after leaving the game with a foot injury, but Tom Brady brought a bit of the Carolina QB’s fashion sense to the podium.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images