1. Offensive lineman Josh Kline declared as an eligible receiver (aka blocking tight end) on three plays of the opening drive (runs of minus-1, 13 and 3 yards). In all, the Patriots used Kline on 11 snaps in that role during the game -- all running plays. That will almost certainly change once the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui back, but here were the results of the plays, which were noticeably mixed:
2. Receiver Brandon LaFell was bailed out on a dropped pass on third-and-15 when Carolina was called for illegal hands to the face. LaFell’s inconsistent hands were often discussed during his four years in Carolina, according to media folks there, and they showed up again in this game.
3. Running back Stevan Ridley’s low playing time total in a “dress rehearsal” game (11 snaps) has me wondering a bit about his status/role. At the same time, he has looked like the Patriots’ most explosive between-the-tackles rusher the past two weeks, with his 13-yard run over the right side one example to highlight (big hole between right guard and right tackle, with fullback James Develin cleaning things up).
4. Bill Belichick’s challenge flag on Shane Vereen’s touchdown came late, in part because he didn’t seem to keep it in his sock as he usually does. But he also later explained that his trusted advisers in the booth didn’t have a good look at the play, which led to the delay and forced the team to burn a timeout.
5. I focused a little more on former Packers defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, who mostly aligned as a 3-technique (outside shade on right guard) and 1-technique (outside shade on center). He occasionally lined up over the right tackle and was clearly getting his feet under him early after having not played for a long time, while also adjusting to a new scheme. The 6-foot-2, 308-pound Worthy was knocked back multiple times on his opening drive.
6. While most of the top players on offense were out by the end of the quarter, center Ryan Wendell and right guard Dan Connolly remained in the game. This highlights how those two spots on the O-line remain up for grabs. Connolly was soon subbed out for Chris Barker at right guard, while Wendell stayed in the game.