FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Carolina coach Ron Rivera wasn’t sure how long his offensive starters would play in the final preseason game next week until he saw them against New England on Friday night.
It took Rivera all of five series to realize that star quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers first-team offense need more time to jell.
Newton was sacked three times, and left briefly with a back injury, and the starting offense sputtered throughout the first half of a 30-7 loss the Patriots.
“To me, it was very evident that we’ve got to get them out there, we’ve got to get our quarterback out on the field and he’s got to get some timing with those guys,” said Rivera. “He missed a couple throws, missed some guys that were open that he overthrew. He’s just got to continue to work with them, and the more snaps he gets the better.”
Newton was 8 for 12 for 88 yards, and all five of his possessions ended in punts.
Rivera would like to limit Newton’s running, despite his skill, and one dash Friday appeared to stun him when he was tackled after running 7 yards.
Trainers tended to him on the field and he was replaced by Derek Anderson before returning after one play.
X-rays were negative and the team called the injury a back contusion.
“He got the wind knocked out of him, and he is sore, but there is nothing there. There really isn’t,” Rivera said. “He’s pretty sore. But there’s nothing other than he took a really good shot.”
Rivera was more concerned with a lack of consistency than he was Newton’s health.
“We had opportunities to make some plays, we didn’t make the plays. We make a block, we miss a block. We complete a pass, we miss a pass. An opportunity to stop a team on third down and we don’t do that,” he said. “So there was no consistency in the way we played.
“If we expect to be a playoff team, we need to be consistent.”
Tom Brady threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 60-yard field goal for the Patriots.
The third preseason game for both teams was no contest as the Patriots outgained the Panthers 405-271.
Brady led the Patriots (2-1) to scores on three of his five series and completed 17 of 21 passes. Both Brady and Newton left after their first series of the third quarter.
Regulars usually see their most action in the third game, and it was clear that the Panthers (1-2) must get better play from their offense and from a defense that was the second stingiest in the NFL last season.
New England had more time to prepare and develop a game plan tailored to Carolina after beating the Philadelphia Eagles 42-35 a week earlier. The Panthers had just four days between last Sunday night’s 28-16 win over the Kansas City Chiefs and their visit to Foxborough.
“That’s an excuse. I don’t want to use excuses,” Rivera said. “We practiced, we had a good game plan. We had a good couple of days of practice.”
Brady played the first two series before Ryan Mallett came in for some snaps against the first-string defense. His drive ended with a 47-yard field goal by Gostkowski.
The first of Brady’s two long drives covered 91 yards and ended with a 40-yard touchdown on a pass to Shane Vereen that the back carried for the last 37. Brady completed 4 of 5 passes for 83 yards on the series.
His next drive began at his own 9 with 1:47 left in the half and ended with Gostkowski’s long field goal, 6 yards better than his career long.
In the third quarter, Brady ended an 80-yard march with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Vereen that made it 20-0.
On the next series, Carolina moved from its 20 to the Patriots 7, but Steve Beauharnais intercepted Anderson’s pass and returned it 61 yards to the Carolina 35. That drive ended in a 21-yard field goal by Gostkowski, and the Patriots tacked on another touchdown on Jimmy Garoppolo’s 11-yard pass to Taylor McCuller.
The Panthers finally scored with 1:12 left on Joe Webb’s 3-yard pass to D.C. Jefferson.
NOTES: Patriots LB Jerod Mayo missed his second game, although he was in uniform. TE Rob Gronkowski also sat out as he aims to be ready for the regular season after knee surgery. … Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart gained 11 yards on four carries after rushing for two touchdowns in his last game.