BY HAL BENT -
On a warm evening in Charlotte, NC the New England Patriots faced off against the Carolina Panthers on ESPN on the national broadcast Monday Night Football game. Two teams with strong-armed quarterbacks (Tom Brady and Cam Newton), strong running backs (Stevan Ridley and DeAngelo Williams), productive, but unheralded, receivers (Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson et al and Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, and more), and big, pass-catching tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen).
On defense, the Patriots had been ravaged by injuries to both starting defensive tackles (Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly) and linebacker Jerod Mayo. The secondary saw starting cornerback Aqib Talib return to the lineup while fellow starter Alfonzo Dennard was injured in practice and out of the lineup for the near future. The secondary later had cornerback Kyle Arrington dinged up and Talib was in and out of the lineup during the game.
The Panthers defense is one of the top units in the NFL and is responsible for their 6-3 record and spot just behind New Orleans in the NFC South. The unit is built around former Boston College standout in linebacker Luke Kuechly and his running mate linebacker Thomas Davis. Their freedom to operate in space is a result of the dynamic defensive line with rookie Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei inside and Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy outside. This Panthers unit has been a solid unit all season being at or near the lead in defensive categories, but tonight it was the New England offense that stopped themselves.
The missed opportunities hurt the Patriots as the defense fell short at the end and the offense just did not have enough at the end as they fell short...Read more here: http://musketfire.com/2013/11/19/new-england-patriots-self-destruct-monday-night-football/