CHARLOTTE -- Two big breakdowns in pass protection led to Tom Brady sacks in the first half. On the first, Nate Solder, for reasons unclear, didn’t lock up defensive end Greg Hardy on a third-and-4 from the Carolina 40. On the second, Ryan Wendell got beat up the middle by Star Lotulelei.
After Stevan Ridley’s fumble in the Carolina red zone, he was put on ice.
The Panthers played with far more composure than the Patriots as evidenced by the protection gaffes, Logan Mankins’ 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty after a second-quarter play, and the fact Aqib Talib let his emotions get the best of him in his clash with Steve Smith.
Smith caught a 42-yarder over Talib to begin the downward mental spiral for Talib. After that, Smith caught a 5-yard cross on third down and Talib blew a gasket when Smith tried to get up and preen, holding Smith’s leg and drawing a penalty. Talib also drew a pass interference penalty when Smith cut across his face on another third down.
Tom Brady threw 17 times in the first half but only twice did he go to Rob Gronkowski. Brady finished 14-for-17 for 123 yards.