The New England Patriots are ready for the regular season. With a commanding 30-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers, the Pats outclassed the defending NFC South champs and exhibited the well-rounded form that should make them a Super Bowl threat.
The first-string defense shut out Carolina and was most impressive against the Panthers' vaunted rushing attack. Apart from a few in-breaking routes to Kelvin Benjamin, Cam Newton failed to establish a rhythm amid a constantly collapsing pocket. As we'll see, New England's front seven received high marks for their performance tonight.
Tom Brady and Co. also appeared in sync in the passing game. Brady had an efficient night filled with his usual assortment of quick-timing routes. The starting offensive line pass protected relatively well, affording Brady enough time to slice apart the middle of the Panthers defense, which was quite soft without reigning Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly after the first two drives.
Most encouragingly, the reserves showed more promise after poor performances against Washington and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Pats led 20-0 at the half and continued to dictate to the Panthers in the second half, illustrating much more depth than they did in the first two preseason contests.
It wasn't all perfect—the offensive line had issues run blocking, while the safety logjam is no closer to a resolution. But there was very little to nitpick on Friday night, as the Patriots delivered an undeniably encouraging result headed into the regular season.
Read on for more detailed analysis and grades of each position unit's showing against Carolina.