Final, Patriots 10-3: Amid a barrage of injuries, the New England Patriots slogged their way to a 10-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday at Gillette Stadium in the penultimate game of their preseason schedule.
More than a half-dozen Patriots players left the game with various ailments, including tight ends Ben Watson, Lance Kendricks and Stephen Anderson, wide receiver/return man Gunner Olszewski and running back Damien Harris. Core special teamer Brandon King needed to be carted off the field after sustaining what appeared to be a serious left leg injury.
Quarterback Tom Brady made his preseason debut for New England, completing 8 of 12 passes for 75 yards in his quarter-and-a-half of action. Notably, Brady was relieved by rookie Jarrett Stidham, who played the rest of the way, going 15-for-19 for 134 yards. Veteran backup Brian Hoyer did not see the field.
Preseason standout Jakobi Meyers appeared out of sync with Brady (zero catches on three targets) but found his groove with Stidham, catching 7 of 9 targets from his fellow rookie for a game-high 74 yards.
The Patriots’ first-team defense looked sharp in its first game action of the preseason, with Kyle Van Noy, Adam Butler and Michael Bennett all recording sacks before giving way to the reserves at halftime. Ufomba Kamalu added another sack in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
New England will wrap up its exhibition slate next Thursday night against the New York Giants at Gillette.
Fourth quarter, 5:13, Patriots 10-3: Add receiver Gunner Olszewski and tight end Lance Kendricks to the growing list of Patriots injuries. Both left the field during the team’s latest drive and were taken to the sideline medical tent.
The injuries occurred on Olszewski’s and Kendricks’ first catches of the night. Both players exited toward the locker room after emerging from the tent.
On a non-injury-related note, we still have not seen Brian Hoyer in this game. It’s been all Jarrett Stidham since Tom Brady exited midway through the second quarter.
Fourth quarter, 10:11, Patriots 7-3: With Brandon King unfortunately looking like he’ll miss significant time with the leg injury he sustained earlier tonight, Calvin Munson could find his way onto the Patriots’ roster as a special teams-focused linebacker.
Munson tallied a team-high eight tackles last week against the Titans and is having another solid game tonight. His tackles of Will Grier for 1 yard and Jordan Scarlett for minus-2 on the latest Panthers drive helped force a punt, though Carolina was bailed out by a penalty and eventually settled for a field goal.
Third quarter, 0:03, Patriots 7-0: A 12-yard strike to Jakobi Meyers and a defensive pass interference call against Ryan Izzo brought the Patriots into the red zone. Two sacks followed, however, and Stephen Gostkowski proceeded to miss his third field goal of the preseason, going wide left from 43 yards out.
Put this miss on new punter/holder Jake Bailey, who failed to spin the laces out for his kicker.
Third quarter, 3:00, Patriots 7-0: This game has devolved into a flag-fest. The Panthers faced a first-and-35 on their latest possession before eventually punting.
Gunner Olszewski returned that punt 28 yards and put a shoulder into punter Michael Palardy as he ran out of bounds. With Braxton Berrios sidelined, Olszewski is having a very strong game as a return man.
Third quarter, 9:14, Patriots 7-0: Jarrett Stidham guided the Patriots slowly down the field with a steady diet of short passes to Jakobi Meyers and Nick Brossette carries, but poor ball security just outside the red zone resulted in a fumble that Carolina recovered.
Rookie left guard Hjalte Froholdt, who has proven this preseason that he still needs quite a bit of seasoning, was at fault on the sack-fumble.
The Patriots will send their second defense out for Carolina’s first possession of the second half.
Third quarter, 15:00, Patriots 7-0: No sign of Ben Watson, Damien Harris or Brandon King on the sideline as the Patriots begin the second half. Jarrett Stidham remains in at quarterback.
Halftime, Patriots 7-0: Jarrett Stidham fired a 19-yard completion to Jakobi Meyers and another to Phillip Dorsett, but the latter was wiped away by a holding penalty on Hjalte Froholdt, all but ending the final drive of the first half.
Stidham also targeted Meyers on two passes that nearly were intercepted. The rookie QB has been very good overall this preseason, but he had a few dicey throws last week, too.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Stidham gives way to Brian Hoyer at any point during the second half.
Phillip Dorsett was the offensive standout for New England in the first half, catching seven passes on seven targets for 49 yards from Tom Brady and Stidham. Defensively, the pass rush continues to impress, with Kyle Van Noy, Michael Bennett and Adam Butler all recording sacks.
Second quarter, 1:15, Patriots 7-0: After Michael Bennett bagged his first sack as a Patriot to halt the Panthers’ latest drive, the Patriots sustained yet another injury, this one to special teamer Brandon King.
It appeared to be a severe left leg injury for King, who had to be carted off the field.
Second quarter, 2:15, Patriots 7-0: Another Patriots injury: Shortly after entering the game with Jarrett Stidham and the second-team offense, running back Damien Harris absorbed a big hit after a play fake and stayed down on the turf.
Harris was examined in the sideline medical tent and subsequently taken to the locker room. The nature of his injury was not immediately clear.
On a positive note, Jakobi Meyers seemed to find a groove with Stidham, catching two passes on two targets for 24 yards on the drive after all three of his targets from Tom Brady fell incomplete. Meyers’ first catch picked up 14 yards on third-and-12, and his second came up just short on third-and-11.
Nick Brossette was stuffed on the ensuing fourth down, turning the ball over to the Panthers.
Second quarter, 7:34, Patriots 7-0: The Panthers went three-and-out in Kyle Allen’s first series under center.
And speaking of backup quarterbacks, the Patriots have gone to their bench, as well. Interestingly, it’s Jarrett Stidham, not Brian Hoyer, taking over for Tom Brady at the halfway point of the second quarter.
Second quarter, 9:52, Patriots 7-0: Ben Watson was taken to the sideline medical tent and then to the locker room after absorbing a high, late hit from Panthers safety Eric Reid.
Watson and Reid, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play, sparred earlier this week on Twitter over the role of the social justice-focused Players Coalition, of which Watson is an active member.
The Patriots’ 15-play drive culminated in a 1-yard touchdown plunge by fullback James Develin.
The drive took 8:21 off the clock and featured a superb catch by Ryan Izzo, who atoned for his earlier holding penalty by laying out to haul in an 18-yard dart from Brady in traffic.
On the Panthers’ side, Carolina announced quarterback Cam Newton has a foot injury and will not return.
First quarter, 3:13, 0-0: Great series from the Patriots’ pass rush, which generated pressure on three consecutive plays:
— Dont’a Hightower fought past Christian McCaffrey to chase Cam Newton to force a throwaway.
— Duron Harmon came on a safety blitz to force Newton to float a screen pass to McCaffrey, which fell incomplete.
— Adam Butler sacked Newton on third down after pressure from Hightower and Terrence Brooks forced the QB to scramble.
Kyle Van Noy also reentered the game after leaving with an injury on the previous drive.
First quarter, 5:36, 0-0: Phillip Dorsett is proving he’s still a reliable target for Tom Brady.
The Patriots QB is 4-for-4 when targeting Dorsett and 0-for-3 when throwing to anyone else so far tonight. This bodes well for Dorsett’s roster status, as he entered tonight on the bubble.
Jakobi Meyers is enduring an especially difficult start to this game. The undrafted sensation didn’t appear to be where Brady wanted him to be on his first two targets (both incompletions) and a holding call on him wiped out a 30-yard run by Sony Michel (who looks sharp thus far).
First quarter, 8:54, 0-0: Kyle Van Noy came in untouched around the edge and smoked Cam Newton for a sack on the second play of the latest Panthers drive, but he injured himself doing so.
After bringing Newton down, the linebacker took a few jogging steps before taking a seat on the turf and receiving medical attention. He eventually walked off the field under his own power and was taken to the sideline medical tent.
First quarter, 10:52, 0-0: Hamstrung by a Ryan Izzo penalty, the Patriots went three-and-out on their opening possession.
Sony Michel got the start at running back, with Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers seeing first reps at receiver. An apparent miscommunication between Tom Brady and Meyers resulted in an overthrown incompletion on third down that resulted in a Jake Bailey punt.
Bailey boomed his kick, and return man Terry Godwin muffed it, with Carolina recovering at its own 16-yard line.
First quarter, 12:45, 0-0: After opening the preseason with two dominant performances, Chase Winovich earned himself a promotion to the starting defense.
The third-round rookie started at outside linebacker for New England after seeing hardly any time with the first-teamers during training camp. Michael Bennett also got the start after sitting out warmups.
Byron Cowart made his presence felt early with a big run stuff on Christian McCaffrey, and Duron Harmon wrapped up D.J. Moore in the open field to force a Panthers punt.
First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: The Patriots won the coin toss and chose to defer. Stephen Gostkowski will handle the opening kickoff.
7 p.m.: The following Patriots players are not in uniform at the start of team warmups:
Slater is the only real surprise on that list. The rest either missed practice this week or were limited in some way.
Julian Edelman and Demaryius Thomas are not expected to play despite suiting up tonight, but we could see the returns of Phillip Dorsett and tight end Stephen Anderson. They’re both dressed tonight after sitting out last week’s game and missing practice time with injuries.
Defensive end Michael Bennett is in uniform but might not play. Rookie Byron Cowart filled his spot in the starting defense during warmups.
6:43 p.m.: Phillip Dorsett is on the field in uniform. He’s returning kicks with James White, Brandon Bolden, Jonathan Jones and Sony Michel.
Braxton Berrios is not. New England’s punt returners in warmups are Julian Edelman (who’s not expected to play), Rex Burkhead, Gunner Olszewski and Jakobi Meyers.
6:30 p.m.: Jake Bailey officially secured his spot on the 53-man roster earlier this week when the Patriots released veteran Ryan Allen. The rookie boasts a ridiculously powerful leg, but it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the subtler aspects of his position (directional punting, holding, etc.).
It also remains to be seen whether Bailey will take kickoffs for the Patriots this season or leave those duties to kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The fifth-round rookie took a few kickoff reps during warmups.
5:03 p.m.: Here’s an update on another Patriots receiver who appears to be on the roster bubble:
Berrios, Dorsett and Maurice Harris — who’s not expected to play tonight — could be fighting for just one roster spot. If Berrios can’t go tonight, it would be a huge missed opportunity for him.
It’s unclear what injury Berrios is dealing with and when he sustained it. The 2018 sixth-round pick played in each of the Patriots’ first two preseason games but logged just 13 offensive snaps last week and appeared limited in practice this week.
If Berrios is sidelined, expect Gunner Olszewski to handle punt return duties for New England.
Dorsett currently is riding an exercise bike on the Patriots’ sideline. His hand no longer is taped.
4:48 p.m.: Phillip Dorsett’s status for tonight remains unclear after he missed last week’s game with an injury.
The wide receiver was the first Patriots player on the field this afternoon, spending about 10 minutes catching passes from a team staffer before heading back down the tunnel.
Dorsett’s roster spot could be in jeopardy with Edelman, Thomas and Josh Gordon all back in the mix, so it would be in his best interest to get back on the field as soon as possible. We’ll see if he plays tonight.
4:30 p.m.: Julian Edelman and Demaryius Thomas currently are running through a workout on the Patriots’ practice field, likely indicating they will not play tonight.
That’s no real surprise. Both players just returned to practice this week, so it makes sense that the Patriots wouldn’t want to rush them back into game action. It does, however, mean Thomas’ first live pass from Tom Brady likely won’t come until the regular-season opener at the earliest. Starters typically do not play in Week 4 of the preseason.
12:45 p.m. ET: Greetings from Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots are preparing to host the Carolina Panthers in Week 3 of the NFL preseason.
If the Patriots keep with tradition tonight, we should see Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots’ starting lineup make their preseason debuts after enjoying nights off in Detroit and Tennessee. This likely will be Brady’s only action of this year’s exhibition season, as teams typically rest their starters in the preseason finale.
Three veteran receivers returned to the Patriots this week in Josh Gordon (from suspension), Julian Edelman (from a broken thumb) and Demaryius Thomas (from a torn Achilles), but it remains to be seen if any of the three will suit up against Carolina. Gordon won’t be eligible to play until next week at the earliest per the terms of his reinstatement, and Thomas and Edelman could be held out after participating in one and two practices this week, respectively.
The list of players we’re not expecting to see tonight includes wide receiver Maurice Harris, defensive ends Shilique Calhoun, Derek Rivers and Trent Harris, and tight ends Matt LaCosse and Stephen Anderson. The statuses of wideouts Phillip Dorsett and N’Keal Harry are unclear after both missed last week’s game with injuries.
We’ll see on safety Patrick Chung, too. He’s worn a red non-contact jersey in practice while he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, and news of his indictment on a cocaine possession charge broke this morning.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. Be sure to check back here throughout the afternoon for full pregame coverage.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images