The Patriots just picked up the first down after a fourth and 2 situation, but let’s take a second to appreciate the fact that the New England offense has 24 points midway through the fourth quarter against the fifth-best scoring defense in the league. (Carolina was allowing an average of 19.9 points per game entering Sunday’s contest.) Impressive stuff.
Jackson with another pick — 3:25 p.m.
J.C. Jackson has done it again. He just picked off Sam Darnold for the second time in the second half, coming away with the ball in the end zone here early in the fourth quarter. Great game for the youngster. The Patriots are up 24-6 with 13:31 left in the game.
A few thoughts on Carolina offense — 3:17 p.m.
•That Myles Bryant hit on D.J. Moore — a completely clean shot — was absolutely brutal. Great tackle. Moore will think twice about coming near Bryant again for the rest of the afternoon.
•The Panthers are going to keep handing it off to McCaffrey here in the third and fourth quarter like it’s a close game. Not sure that’s a wise move, especially for a guy just coming off an injury.
•On that note, if Carolina can’t score on this drive, I’d yank Darnold and McCaffrey.
Folk makes it 24-6 — 3:13 p.m.
A 37-yard field goal from Nick Folk makes it 24-6 with 2:20 to go in the third quarter. It would be a shocker if the Patriots don’t close this thing out.
Collins picks off Darnold — 3:07 p.m.
Jamie Collins just picked off Sam Darnold in Carolina territory, and the Patriots will get the ball a the Carolina 43 with 4:10 to go in the third quarter. Again, there’s a lot of time left, but New England has this thing figured out right now.
Pick-six puts Pats in command — 2:58 p.m.
Woo. There’s still a lot of time left, but given the ineffective play from the Carolina offense, that pick-six from J.C. Jackson — which went 88 yards, and made it 21-6 with the extra point — could really end things here. Great play by Jackson to find his way back to the end zone for the score. There’s 6:55 left in the third quarter, but the Patriots are now firmly in command of this one.
Panthers take over — 2:48 p.m.
The two teams have traded punts to start the second half. New England still holds a 14-6 lead with 11:54 to go in the third quarter, but the Panthers will start their latest drive from their own 16-yard line.
Halftime analysis — 2:28 p.m.
Two quarters are in the books in Charlotte, and the Patriots have a 14-6 lead on the Panthers. Here are a few quick notes:
Mac Jones: 11-for-13, 121 yards, one TD, one INT
Brandon Bolden: 3 carries. 39 yards; 2 catches, 27 yards
Rhamondre Stevenson: 2 catches, 44 yards
Damien Harris: 9 carries. 23 yards, one TD
•After back-to-back impressive outings, it was a sluggish start for the New England offense, as the Patriots had problems generating any sort of rhythm in the first quarter-plus. (The first three drives ended with a punt, punt, and a fumble.) Sacks and penalties pinned them on first and second down, which made succeeding on third down difficult.
•They were able to find success on their fourth drive, one that was highlighted by a 41-yard pass play to Stevenson and was capped by a three-yard touchdown run from Harris to give New England a 7-3 lead with 8:19 to go in the first half. The offense added to that late in the second quarter with a tidy 10-play, 75-yard sequence, one that was powered by the backs in the passing game and was finished off with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Henry.
•Jones has turned the ball over twice — once on a strip sack and once on an interception from Stephon Gilmore. (It was Jones’ first interception since a Week 6 loss to Dallas.) The defense bailed him out twice, keeping Carolina out of the end zone on both occasions. Other than those two gaffes, he’s actually done pretty well.
•Speaking of the defense, it was mostly impressive, with the highlight probably coming following a strip sack of Jones late in the first quarter that left the Panthers with the ball on the New England 33. The Patriots were able to keep Carolina out of the end zone, minimizing the damage and making sure it was just a three-point deficit and not a seven-point disadvantage. The defense did the same thing later in the first half when the Gilmore interception gave Carolina possession in Patriots’ territory, but were able to hold the Panthers to a 49-yard field goal to make it 7-6 with 4:31 to go in the half.
•We knew that Clete Blakeman’s officiating crew was one of the most flag-happy in the league, and that manifested in seven early penalties (four on the Patriots and three on the Panthers). Both teams looked like they were able to figure things out as the game went on, as there were fewer penalties from that point. We’ll see how things shake out in the second half.
•Special teams was passable, as Gunner Olszewski has put together a couple of nice returns, the New England punt team downed one inside the 10, and Nick Folk connected on both his extra-point attempts.
•The Panthers will get the ball to start the second half.
Henry makes it 14-6 — 2:24 p.m.
The Patriots’ running backs powered that drive, as Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson all led the way in the passing game on that sequence, one that culminated with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Henry to make it 14-6 with 24 seconds left in the half. All three backs picked up quality yardage as pass catchers on that drive. Good work for all three.
Pats’ D stands firm — 2:12 p.m.
Another good stand there by the Patriots’ defense. After the Gilmore pick gave the Panthers possession in New England territory, the defense held firm, keeping Carolina out of the end zone. They Panthers settled for a 49-yard field goal that made it 7-6 New England with 4:31 to go in the second quarter. Carolina can’t get anything going in the passing game, and that lack of offensive balance could really hurt them as this game continues.
Gilmore picks off Jones — 2:06 p.m.
Stephon Gilmore revenge game? The former Patriot got some payback just now midway through the first half as he picked off Jones with 6:22 left to give the Panthers possession deep in New England territory.
Stevenson powers offense to lead — 1:55 p.m.
The offense has some life. A Jones-to-Stevenson swing pass led to a 41-yard completion for New England; the rookie did well when it came to finding open space downfield and picking up a ton of quality yards after the catch. Stevenson also had an impressive angry run of 13 yards shortly after that to get the Patriots to the Carolina three. Harris finished off the drive with a three-yard TD run, his seventh of the year. It’s 7-3 Patriots with 8:19 to go in the first half.
Stevenson: 4 carries, 33 yards
Mac Jones: 7-for-8, 80 yards
Stevenson: 1 catch, 41 yards
Bourne: 2 catches, 16 yards
Carolina on the board — 1:46 p.m.
Given where the Patriots turned the ball over, that was probably the best possible outcome — a 39-yard goal from Carolina to make the score 3-0 with 12:07 left in the first half. Points are at a premium so far; if both defenses keep executing like this and both offenses continue to stumble, I’d say the first team to 10 is going to end up a winner.
Panthers on the move — 1:40 p.m.
Mac Jones takes his second sack of the day and fumbles the ball away in the process. The Panthers take possession at the New England 33. After a quick run from McCaffrey, the Panthers have possession at the Patriots’ 29 at the end of the first quarter. We’re still scoreless, but Carolina is staring at an excellent scoring opportunity here. At the end of one quarter, Mac Jones is 5-for-6 for 30 yards, while Brandon Bolden has one run for 16 yards and Hunter Henry has one catch for 12 yards.
Sloppy start on both sides — 1:34 p.m.
Just a generally sloppy start for both teams. We knew that Clete Blakeman’s crew is one of the most flag happy teams in the league, but the slipshod action certainly hasn’t helped things to this point. Both teams have had issues when it comes to establishing offensive rhythm — as well as ball security — and the seven flags (four on New England and three on Carolina) have put the exclamation point on a less-than-ideal first 10-plus minutes of this one. Anyway, the Pats will get the ball at their own 47 with 1:59 left in the first quarter. There’s no score.
Pats taking flags early — 1:25 p.m.
Penalties and negative plays have really pinned the Patriots on first and second down here in the early going. (Four penalties so far for New England.) The Patriots were able to overcome some of those issues with a nice third-down connection from Jones to Hunter Henry that went for 12 yards and got New England into Carolina territory, but the drive wasn’t sustainable, and the Pats ended up punting it away for the second straight possession. A few inconsistent series’ for the Patriots offense to open the game. There’s no score with 5:35 to go in the first quarter.
Panthers punt, suffer injury — 1:18 p.m.
Carolina went three-and-out, and has also lost its center, at least for a few plays. There’s no score with 9:03 left in the first quarter, and the Patriots will get the ball and their own 40-yard line.
Pats take a pair of bad early penalties — 1:11 p.m.
New England was thrown for a loss early when it took a pair of bad penalties on its first drive, forcing a punt to the Panthers. Carolina will start on its own 20 with 12:19 left in the first quarter of a scoreless game.
Pats lose coin toss, will open on offense — 1:02 p.m.
Patriots lose the opening toss and the Panthers elect to defer. Time for football.
What will protection look like? — 12:58 p.m.
Official Price Prediction — 12:48 p.m.
The Patriots should win this one. I like the Carolina defense, but I have questions about the offense, especially with Darnold’s struggles against New England in the past and McCaffrey coming back from injury. Because of those offensive issues, I don’t think the Panthers will be able to play good complementary football, and the extra time on the field today will take a toll on the Carolina defense before it’s all done. While the Panthers will make it interesting, the Patriots should win this thing by roughly seven points if it can run the ball and stay away from turnovers. I’ll say New England 27, Carolina 20.
Clete Blakeman on the call — 12:35 p.m.
Clete Blakeman will serve as the lead official for today’s game between the Patriots and Panthers. According to our pals at NFL Penalties, his crew is one of the more active in the league when it comes to flags — they are tied for fifth-most penalties in the league through seven games, with 95 called.
Pats’ fans traveling well — 12:28 p.m.
A Patriots’ rooting guide to today’s action — 12:15 p.m.
Bills (5-2) at Jaguars (1-6): However unlikely it might be, New England fans should be rooting for Jacksonville to pull the upset today against Buffalo. A New England win and Buffalo loss would draw the Patriots to within a half-game of the top of the AFC East.
Browns (4-4) at Bengals (5-3): With the Patriots and Browns both at 4-4, a New England win and Cleveland loss could give the Pats some addition separation in the lead-up to next week’s showdown at Gillette.
Broncos (4-4) at Cowboys (6-1): Denver is another 4-4 team, and so if both Dallas and New England win, it would start to create some distance between the Broncos and Patriots in the still-developing AFC playoff chase.
Chargers (4-3) at Eagles (3-5): If Los Angeles (4-3) loses and New England (4-4) wins, the Patriots (who have the tiebreaker edge on the Chargers because of last week’s win) climb the AFC standings at LA’s expense.
Packers (7-1) at Chiefs (4-4): A reeling Kansas City team is one of several clubs tied with the Patriots at 4-4, and so if Green Bay can go into Arrowhead and come away with a win, it’ll provide a bit of a boost for New England.
How will Pats offense look? — 11:59 a.m.
Mac Jones weapons today vs. Panthers:
WR: Agholor, Meyesr, Bourne, Olszewski, Wilkerson
TE: Henry, Smith
RB: Harris, Bolden, Stevenson
Patriots will also have the same OL combo for the third straight game. Tough test today against the Panthers’ No. 2 defense
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) November 7, 2021
Can Pats cover on the road? — 11:58 a.m.
The consensus seems to be the Patriots are anywhere between a two- and a three-point favorite this afternoon, which feels a little low, given the uncertainty at quarterback for Carolina and New England’s recent run of success. Even with the Patriots on the road, I think they win outright and cover this afternoon against a Panthers’ team that has injury questions on offense (Darnold and McCaffrey are active, although it’s questionable how effective either will be after battling health concerns.) The over/under set by our pals at Odds Shark is at 41.5 — with the good weather and the New England offense playing better these last few games, I’m taking the over.
A few more betting notes, per Odds Shark:
The total has gone over in 4 of New England’s last 5 games.
New England is 12-4 straight up in their last 16 games played in November.
New England is 8-3 against the spread in their last 11 games against an opponent in the NFC South.
The total has gone under in 5 of New England’s last 7 games on the road.
Predict the outcome — 11:51 a.m.
What’s going to happen today?
— Christopher Price (@cpriceglobe) November 7, 2021
Good weather in the forecast — 11:50 a.m.
Another ideal weather day today for the Patriots, as the forecast calls for temperatures in the low 60s, with a light wind and some clouds. No issues when it comes to the conditions today at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Mac has arrived — 11:44 a.m.
N’Keal Harry among Pats inactives — 11:41 a.m.
The following players are inactive today for the Patriots:
Wide receiver N’Keal Harry (knee) was on the injury report with a knee issue on Friday, and was listed as questionable. This will mark the fourth game this season that Harry will miss — he was out for the first three weeks with a shoulder injury he sustained in the preseason. (The ascension of Kristian Wilkerson from the practice squad late in the week likely means he will be used as a depth piece at the receiver spot.)
Devin Asiasi continues his streak as a healthy scratch — the young tight end, who was not on the injury report this week, has not played in the regular season to this point. It’ll be the Hunter Henry/Jonnu Smith show at tight end.
Cornerback Shaun Wade has struggled to see the field since he was acquired late this summer, and he’ll miss today’s game against the Panthers as well. New England does have a “relatively” healthy group of cornerbacks, including J.C. Jackson, who was on the injury report earlier this week with an illness, but was removed on Friday.
Rookie linebacker Ronnie Perkins is the defensive companion of Assisi in that he’s a youngster who continues to take healthy scratches for a few reasons, not the least of which he plays at a relatively deep position for New England. He’ll sit again this afternoon against the Panthers as he settles in on the Trey Flowers Rookie Redshirt Plan.
Offensive lineman Yasir Durant is another (presumably) healthy scratch, as he wasn’t on the injury report all week. It’s a good sign for an offensive line that has had issues staying healthy this season.
J.J. Taylor is another healthy scratch. The undersized running back has had his moments this year, including a pair of touchdowns against the Jets. But with a healthy stable of backs ahead of him on the depth chart, he won’t see any action against the Panthers.
The scene at the stadium — 11:20 a.m.
Some stats to watch for today — 11:15 a.m.
These are courtesy of Patriots’ PR:
•Damien Harris is looking to score a rushing touchdown in his fifth straight game. If successful, he will tie for the third most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown in team history. (Curtis Martin holds the franchise record with seven straight games, set in 1996.)
•Jakobi Meyers threw touchdown passes in Weeks 10 and 17 last season, becoming the fourth wide receiver with two touchdown passes in a single season in the Super Bowl era. With one more touchdown pass, Kendrick Bourne can join that list after he completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the win over the Jets on Oct. 24.
•Mac Jones has completed over 70 percent of his passes in five of his first eight NFL games, the only rookie QB to ever do so. The rookie record is nine games, set by Dan Prescott. The NFL record is 13 games by Drew Brees in 2017. (In addition, through eight games, Jones’ completion rate is 68.1 percent. The best completion for a season by a rookie quarterback is Prescott’s 67.7 percent, set in 2016.)
•Matt Judon has eight sacks through eight games. His career-high is 9.5 sacks, set in 2019 with the Ravens.
Pregame reading list — 11:05 a.m.
The best way to prepare for today:
Matt Pepin: Report: Panthers’ Sam Darnold to start at quarterback vs Patriots on Sunday
Nicole Yang: Panthers activate running back Christian McCaffrey in time for Sunday’s game against Patriots
Ben Volin: The Patriots’ trade of Stephon Gilmore was disappointing in more ways than one
Nicole Yang: A lot of teams need to pass on Odell Beckham Jr. before he can catch on with Patriots
Jim McBride: For a supposedly ‘all-business’ team, the Patriots are having a lot of fun these days
Khari Thompson: Five Panthers players to watch in their Week 9 showdown against the Patriots
Chad Finn: Patriots and Panthers are each 4-4, but this is not an even matchup
Nicole Yang: Panthers coach Matt Rhule saw special things in Mac Jones a while ago
Jim McBride: Stephon Gilmore didn’t agree with how the Patriots handled his quadriceps injury and his contract
Jim McBride: In his year and a half as a Patriot, it’s been nothing but good vibes for Adrian Phillips
Back to live action — 11 a.m.
Welcome back to football! This afternoon, we’ve got the Patriots and Panthers, set for a 1 p.m. kickoff. New England will be looking to win its third straight for the first time in more than a year. We’ll have all the action all day long, including our usual pregame festivities with news from the stadium, the latest betting information, weather updates, a look around the league, inactive analysis, and much more. So put on a fresh pot of coffee and settle in for a great day of football.
Christopher Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.