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Bill Belichick urging his team to ‘keep our foot on the gas’ to close preseason

08.27.16 at 12:49 am ET
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Aug 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA;  New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Patriots win over the Panthers 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick watched his team improve to 3-0 in the preseason. (Jim Dedmon-USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick watched his team improve to 3-0 in the preseason Friday night in a 19-17 win over the Panthers.

But infinitely more important is the progress he saw in key areas as the team prepares for the season opener Sept. 11 in Arizona.

Before then, the Patriots staff must look at film, make corrections, cut the roster to 75 by 4 p.m. Tuesday and get ready for the Giants in the preseason finale next Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.

Friday, the Patriots head coach saw his defense pick off three Carolina passes, including two interceptions of reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton. He saw Tom Brady play four series and throw a perfect 33-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan.

He saw Cyrus Jones, his prized rookie punt returner, rip off a 60-yard run to set up the eventual game-winning touchdown.

“It was a good run but really blocked well,” Belichick said of the third-quarter return. “We covered kicks well, probably best game we’ve had [in preseason].”

Of course, on the negative side, his starting quarterback for Sept. 11 clearly looked the most inferior of the three on the field Friday night as Jimmy Garoppolo struggled from beginning to his end in the third quarter. His team was 0-for-7 on third down in the first half and finished just 1-for-13 and missed its only chance on fourth down.

“I think all of our players have made progress and they all have things they need to work on,” Belichick said after the game. “We’ve moved ahead in a lot of areas. But we’re certainly not where we need to be. I don’t think any player is, any coach is and I’m sure no team is at this point. But we’re all making progress and that’s good. We’ve just got to keep our foot on the gas and try to make it as quickly as we can. That goes for everybody.”

All eyes were on Tom Brady as he made his 2016 preseason debut late in the first quarter. For the first time since Sept. 23, 2001, Brady came into an NFL game (of any kind) as a substitute quarterback.

“I thought that was the best way to play him,” Belichick said of the plan for Brady.

Brady hooked up with Chris Hogan on a perfect 33-yard TD pass that dropped into Hogan’s hands to cap his second drive.

“Carolina doesn’t play a lot of single-high coverage,” Belichick said. “They do it a few times a game. They play a little bit of quarters coverage a few times a game. When you get those opportunities, you’re talking about going up on them. We did a couple of times. That’s one we hit. That’s good to see us take advantage and convert that. We hit one last year to Dobson. When they give you that opportunity, and you don’t see many of them, you’ve got to make it count. Good throw, good catch.”

Perhaps what brought the most satisfaction to Belichick on the night were the three interceptions, all by Rutgers products. Logan Ryan and Devin McCourty (thanks to a tip from Chris Long) picked off Cam Newton and Duron Harmon intercepted Derek Anderson at the Patriots goal line.

“The Rutgers connection came through for us.” Belichick said with a smile.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots,

Jimmy Garoppolo admits he has to ‘get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt’

08.27.16 at 12:13 am ET
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Aug 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA;  New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) tries to elude Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kyle Love (93) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Patriots win over the Panthers 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Garoppolo tries to elude Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kyle Love (93) during the second half Friday night. (Jim Dedmon-USA Today Sports)

The film doesn’t lie. Neither does instant replay on a smart tablet on the sideline.

Jimmy Garoppolo struggled Friday night to get the Patriots into any sort of offensive rhythm and was the only Patriots quarterback not to throw a touchdown pass in a 19-17 win over the Panthers Friday night at Bank of America Stadium.

There are two plays that he will focus on during film session over the weekend. On the first drive of the night, he threw a pass intended for Julian Edelman at the Panthers 10. Edelman stopped on the in route. Garoppolo thought he would keep moving. The pass went in and out of the hands of linebacker Luke Kuechly.

“Just a little miscommunication between us,” Garoppolo said. “I can’t make that throw. Can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands and give him a chance like that. Just got to be smart in the red zone like that.”

The other big mistake came late in the first half when he was chased down from behind by Thomas Davis, Jr. and stripped of the ball inside the Patriots 15. Fortunately for Garoppolo, James White was there to fall on the ball.

Garoppolo was asked if splitting reps in practice was taking away from his ability to read patterns or feel pressure.

“Nah. It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that,” Garoppolo said. “It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns.”

Garoppolo started and played the first three series before being relieved by Tom Brady. He finished 9-of-15 for 57 yards and was stripped of the ball once. Garoppolo has two weeks to get ready for the opener Sept. 11 in Arizona.

“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight. We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”

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Read More: Carolina Panthers, Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots

Stock Watch: Who’s up, who’s down after preseason win over Panthers

08.26.16 at 11:57 pm ET
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Tom Brady looks to pass Friday against the Panthers. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tom Brady looks to pass Friday against the Panthers. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Taking a quick look at who was up and who was down for the Patriots in Friday’s preseason slate against the Panthers:

UP
The Patriots secondary. The New England defensive backs came away with three interceptions on the night, with Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon picking off Cam Newton (twice) and backup Derek Anderson (once).

Tom Brady. The veteran saw his first taste of action this preseason in the first half, and while he was 3-for-9 for 76 yards and a touchdown on the night, his energy and enthusiasm was palpable. It’s debatable as to how valuable the work for Brady was — he’ll be on the shelf until Week 5 of the regular season, thanks to You Know Who. But it was a good first step for him.

Chris Hogan. The new receiver, who will likely step into the role that Brandon LaFell had the last two years, showed some impressive quicks and good chemistry. He ended the night with five catches on six targets for 62 yards and a touchdown, and appears to be ready for the regular season.

Third-down defense. The Patriots were excellent when it came to getting off the field, holding Carolina to 1-for-10 on third down to start the night and 5-for-17 overall.

Cyrus Jones. The rookie out of Alabama had a 60-yard punt return that led to New England’s second touchdown of the night, a 12-yard pass play from Jacoby Brissett to DeAndre Carter that came five plays later. In addition, he was part of a New England secondary that shut down Newton. All in all, a good night for the first-year player.

DOWN
Third-down offense. As good as the third-down defense was, the third-down offense was that bad. Brady delivered a jolt to the New England offense when he entered the game, but the group as a whole smply couldn’t string together extended drives. The Patriots were 0-for-7 on third down in the first half, and didn’t connect on third down until Brissett found Carter on a touchdown pass play late in the third quarter. (New England finished 1-for-13 overall.) Truth be told, the inconsistency was an issue throughout, as New England was overly reliant on the defense much of the evening.

Jimmy Garoppolo. If you are stacking his three preseason starts against each other, Friday night’s performance was the roughest of the three. Even with some short fields courtesy of the defense and special teams, Garoppolo was unable to find much offensive traction on the night. He went 9-for-15 for 57 yards and appeared rattled at times in the face of the Carolina defense.

Stephen Gostkowski. One of his missed field goals was likely the result of a bad snap from Joe Cardona, but there was no denying the fact that it wasn’t Gostkowski’s finest hour. He missed a 30-yarder and a 52-yarder. He did connect on a 25-yard attempt in the first half and added a 30-yarder in the second half, but the misses will be a point of emphasis this week.

AJ Derby. The tight end struggled with some drops, and it looked like he might have missed at least one blocking assignment in the first half. (He did have a nice fourth-quarter catch from Brissett.) After a really good performance last week against the Bears that might have cemented his spot as the third tight end, it was a bit of a step back for the youngster.

Red-zone efficiency. The Patriots were just 1-for-4 in the red zone against the Panthers. That was on the heels of a 2-for-5 effort last week against the Bears and a 1-for-3 performance in the preseason opener against the Saints. Maybe that starts to improve when the Patriots have their full collection of offensive options on the field — including Rob Gronkowski, who is one of the best red-zone threats in the league. But New England needs to consistently start finishing drives with touchdowns instead of field goals.

Read More: AJ Derby, Chris Hogan, Cyrus Jones, Jimmy Garoppolo

Tom Brady debuts, Jacoby Brissett, defense shines, Jimmy Garoppolo struggles in win over Panthers

08.26.16 at 10:50 pm ET
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Aug 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA;  New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady fires one of nine passes on the night Friday in Charlotte. (Jim Dedmon-USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady made his long-awaited preseason debut in relief, completing 3-of-9 passes for 74 yards, including a perfect touch pass for a 33-yard touchdown to Chris Hogan, as the Patriots beat the Panthers, 19-17, Friday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

The Patriots (3-0) get their final preseason tune-up this Thursday night at MetLife Stadium against the Giants. The Patriots will have to cut their roster down to 75 players by Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Brady came on late in the first quarter for a struggling Jimmy Garoppolo and played four series, mostly in the second quarter. Brady was sacked on his last snap of the night. It was the first time Brady came on in relief in a game of any kind since replacing Drew Bledsoe against the Jets on Sept. 23, 2001.

Also making his preseason debut was receiver Julian Edelman. He played most of the first half, catching one pass (from Brady) on three targets for six yards.

Garoppolo started and then came in for Brady to run a two-minute drill at the end of the first half. He nearly fumbled the ball inside the Panthers 15 before James White recovered. Garoppolo finished the first half 5-for-9 for 37 yards, a fumble and an intentional grounding.

Not including taking two knees to end the first half, Garoppolo, who started the second half, was under center for six series, going 9-for-15 for 57 yards for the game.

Jacoby Brissett came one and completed his first three passes late in the third quarter, completing an in-cut to DeAndre Carter from 12 yards for a touchdown. Brissett, the rookie out of North Carolina State, completed all nine passes on the night for 83 yards and the touchdown.

For the full box score, click here.

Another big highlight was an electric 60-yard punt return in the third quarter by rookie Cyrus Jones that set up Brissett’s first touchdown.

The best news of the night for the Patriots was the play of the secondary. They completely shut down 2015 MVP Cam Newton, intercepting him twice on picks from Logan Ryan and Devin McCourty. Duron Harmon also picked off Derek Anderson.

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Read More: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, Cyrus Jones, Jacoby Brissett

Jonathan Kraft has no concerns about Tom Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo relationship: ‘Same as it’s always been’

08.26.16 at 7:52 pm ET
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Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft is totally fine with Tom Brady’s mindset.

There was a lot of speculation this week that Brady was upset that preseason snaps were being taken away from him in an effort to get Jimmy Garoppolo ready for the regular season.

The team president said he has no concerns about his star quarterback’s desire to play or his competitiveness on the field as it relates to keeping as many snaps to himself in the preseason.

Kraft was asked on the team’s radio pregame show if he senses that the reality is setting in for Brady that suspension is about to begin.

“I think it set in when the decision came down and Tom, as he said publicly when he made the decision the appeal what had happened, he just wanted to move on from this,” Kraft said. “So, I think it’s settled in.

“Tom’s a thoughtful, mature person. I don’t think there’s any difference in his mindset today than there was the day that the en banc decision came down.”

Is there any change in the relationship between Brady and Garoppolo?

“The relationship with Jimmy is the same as it’s always been, which I think is the way it should be,” Kraft said. “I think since Jimmy’s got to the team, Tom’s been trying to help make him as good of an NFL quarterback as he can be because given the nature of our game, you don’t expect it to be through suspension for somebody like Tom Brady, but obviously in the National Football League, players for a lots of different reasons end up not being on the football field.

“Your team is only as good as the person that’s coming in to take your place. Tom cares deeply about the competitiveness of our football team.”

Read More: Carolina Panthers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jonathan Kraft, New England Patriots

Bill Belichick on QB reps: ‘We’ll see how it goes but I think they’ll all play’

08.26.16 at 7:10 pm ET
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Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick

Patriots coach Bill Belichick confirmed to the team’s pregame radio show that he was anticipating Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett all playing in the third preseason game against the Panthers.

“We’ll see how it goes but I think they’ll all play.” Belichick told Scott Zolak. Belichick did not indicate who would start.

Of course, last week Belichick indicated that all three would play against the Bears and then Brady had a mishap with the scissors.

The indication at the last minute has been that Garoppolo will likely start against Carolina. Brady is expected to come in for work and then Garoppolo could return before Jacoby Brissett finishes up.

Belichick indicated that the 90 degree temperatures and the high humidity will help condition the team.

“There are so many different ways for us to improve tonight. [Humidity] is definitely one of them,” Belichick said.

Here are other takeaways from Belichick:

On running back DJ Foster getting reps against Carolina: “Hopefully. He had a good week of practice. We’ll see what that looks like, maying running back, maybe returning kicks.”

On linebacker Barkevious Mingo and where he might play, and if that might include special teams: “We’ll just have to see how that goes. Mingo’s got some versatility. Good set of skills hopefully we’ll be able to utilize.” Belichick indicated that Mingo can play on or off the line of scrimmage.

On playing most of the players who made the trip to Carolina
: “We’ll play all the players that are able to play to night.”

Barkevious Mingo is the first to wear No. 51 since Jerod Mayo retired. Kamu Grugier-Hill made the trip but is not expected to play because of a sudden illness.

Read More: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,

Report: Barring late change, Jimmy Garoppolo will start for Pats while Tom Brady will play at some point

08.26.16 at 5:36 pm ET
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Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Barring a last-minute change, the Patriots plan to have Jimmy Garoppolo start against the Panthers Friday night, but also plan to play Tom Brady at some point in the evening, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.

Earlier in the week, Brady expressed a desire to get some preseason work in prior to his four-game suspension to start the regular season. Brady has not played to this point in the preseason.

“I’d like to be out there every time I get a chance to play — you only get so many opportunities a year,” Brady said after being asked if he wanted to be on the field Friday against Carolina. “I [have] so many opportunities left in my life, so I’d like to take advantage of any opportunity — any and all of them, if possible. When you see your teammates out there in their uniforms and ready to go, you want to be out there with them.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Jimmy Garoppolo, Tom Brady,
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