We saw young players get a chance to show what they're capable of. We saw one quarterback look rattled against a good defense on the road. We saw a future Hall of Famer enter as a sub and make the throw of the summer.
There was plenty to break down from New England's exhibition win over Carolina, 19-17, but here are five quick takeaways...
Garoppolo rattled by Panthers defense in third preseason start: Jimmy Garoppolo started the game and ended up going 9-for-15 for 57 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The third-year signal-caller narrowly avoided a couple of turnovers, though, which would have made his line look more unsightly. Early in the game, he hit Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly in the chest with a pass intended for Julian Edelman. After the game, Garoppolo said there was a "miscommunication" between him and Edelman, but he took the blame for the throw. Later, Garoppolo did not see a pressure coming, took a hit, rolled out of the pocket, almost turned a near-sack into a positive play, and then . . . he was strip-sacked. Luckily for the Patriots, running back James White was there to pounce on the loose football. Garoppolo was also flagged for an intentional grounding penalty after he didn't get outside of the pocket on a throwaway. All in all, it was a tough night, and it seemed to be a step back for Garoppolo, who had clearly progressed from preseason game No. 1 against the Saints to preseason game No. 2 against the Bears.
Brady's numbers should have looked better: Brady entered the game after three offensive series, and he remained in the game for four drives. That may seem like a lot of playing time for a quarterback who won't see regular-season action until Week 5, but he attempted just seven passes in the first three drives, and it made sense that the Patriots might try to get him an extended drive; he didn't run a drive that lasted longer than four plays in his four trips out onto the field. Two of those series could have last longer had Brady's teammates provided him with more help. Edelman dropped a pass during the first drive, and Martellus Bennett appeared to drop a would-be touchdown two plays later. During Brady's third drive, tight end AJ Derby dropped a third-down attempt that would have kept Brady on the field. Brady was nearly picked during his final series, but had those drops been converted, his final line -- 3-for-9 for 76 yards and a touchdown -- would have looked more impressive. That touchdown pass, a 33-yarder to Chris Hogan, was perfectly-thrown and hit Hogan in stride.
Rookies get an opportunity to shine: The Patriots gave starts to rookie third-round defensive tackle Vincent Valentine and rookie sixth-round linebacker Elandon Roberts on the defensive side of the football. Offensively they started sixth-round rookie Ted Karras at right guard. Why? Patriots coach Bill Belichick has made it clear that the team has to take into account multiple factors when determining how to handled preseason snaps. Two of the primary objectives are a) to prepare the team for the regular season, obviously, and b) to evaluate players looking for roster spots. By playing young players against Panthers starters on Friday, it gave Belichick and the coaching staff a chance to see how those young players could handle upper-tier competition. Later in the game, undrafted rookie corner Jonathan Jones and undrafted rookie running back DJ Foster flashed some skill that could put them in the running to earn roles on the 53-man roster. Cyrus Jones, the second-round pick who is a roster lock, drew attention with a 60-yard punt return in the third quarter.
Patriots defense looks to be in mid-season form: In his preseason debut, Patriots corner Logan Ryan set the tone for the rest of Belichick's defense. He was targeted five times in the first quarter. Those targets resulted in zero catches, an offensive pass interference and an interception. Ryan had sported a red non-contact jersey for the entirety of training camp until this week, and he excelled in his first game action while going against Carolina's top wideout Kelvin Benjamin. Defensive end Chris Long had another strong performance, drawing a holding penalty, and recording two pressures as well as a pass breakup. The throw Long tipped landed in the arms of safety Devin McCourty for an interception. All three Rutgers products in the Patriots secondary -- Ryan, McCourty and Duron Harmon -- ended the night with picks. Harmon's came on an overthrown pass from Derek Anderson.
Starting tackles come into focus: It was a difficult night for Nate Solder, who was flagged for a false start and then allowed a pressure to defensive end Mario Addison that eventually led to Kony Ealy's sack of Brady. On the other side of the line, Marcus Cannon appeared to put together a solid performance. Because Sebastian Vollmer isn't expected to be healthy enough to start the season, the right tackle job is Cannon's, and he looked steady there on Friday night.
Odds and ends: Julian Edelman made his preseason debut, catching one pass for six yards. He also had a drop, and he was called for a holding penalty that wiped out a 17-yard run by Tyler Gaffney...Stephen Gostkowski was 2-for-4 on his field goal attempts, including misses from 30 and 52 yards. The timing of the operation on the 30-yarder may have never recovered from Joe Cardona's low snap...Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton did not play. Valentine, Malcom Brown, Joe Vellano, Anthony Johnson and Woodrow Hamilton all saw snaps on the interior. Alan Branch did not play after he was recently re-instated from a week-long, team-imposed suspension...Chris Hogan led the team in receptions (five) and receiving yards (62), and he appeared to have some chemistry with both Garoppolo and Brady...Jacoby Brissett finished the game a perfect 9-for-9 for 85 yards and a touchdown while working against Panthers reserves. His touchdown was a well-thrown 13-yarder that led receiver DeAndre Carter away from Carolina's coverage and towards the goal line.