Sunday, December 13, 2009
Wrap-up: Patriots 20, Panthers 10
The New England Patriots rung up that desperately needed victory, but the way it happened doesn't do much to erase long-range concerns about them.
The Patriots shook off a slapdash first half to beat the Carolina Panthers 20-10 in Gillette Stadium. The AFC East leaders were a different team after halftime, but their lack of immediate response at a time when the team gave off a serious crisis vibe was unsettling.
Carolina, with a backup quarterback, led for most of the first half. The Patriots didn't take their first lead until 66 seconds were left in the third quarter, creating considerable tension for the home crowd.
Patriots receiver Randy Moss, kicked out of Gillette Stadium when he showed up late for a meeting Wednesday morning, was booed for his lackluster performance.
He caught one pass for 16 yards and fumbled it away. He also appeared to give up on a pass the Panthers intercepted in the first half.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick went for it on fourth down again -- and failed.
The dynasty was falling right before our eyes.
But the Patriots regrouped in the locker room and emerged a different team. A 96-yard scoring drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown toss to Benjamin Watson finally gave them a lead.
Tom Brady finished 19-of-34 for 192 yards and a touchdown. All but nine of his completions were to Wes Welker, who was relentless in gaining 105 yards.
New England's defense allowed 305 net yards. Matt Moore had 197 yards, including a 41-yard connection with Steve Smith. DeAngelo Williams averaged 6.3 yards on 13 carries.
Three games to go. Still a lot of questions to answer.