By Jake Noddell (Football Correspondent)
The Carolina Panthers pulled off a major upset in Foxboro against the New England Patriots 33-30, with Graham Gano hitting a 48 yard field goal as time expired.
The Patriots now sit at 2-2, tied with the New York Jets for 2nd place in the AFC East, trailing the Buffalo Bills by a game.
Defensive struggles, yet again, were the main reason as to why the Patriots lost to Carolina. They only recorded two sacks on former MVP Cam Newton. Late in the game, Stephon Gilmore was flagged with an illegal use of hands on a key third down for the Panthers deep in their own territory, which gave them an automatic first down.
Junior Ayush Thacker sees Gilmore as a heavy burden, at least early on in the season. “Our secondary needs to improve a lot, especially Stephon Gilmore still trying to learn the system,” Thacker said.
With regard to the playoffs, the Patriots chances at a one-seed aren’t very high right now. They trail the Kansas City Chiefs by two games, but the Chiefs also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. As a result, they need to have a better record than the Chiefs in order to clinch the first seed, who are the only remaining undefeated team left in the NFL.
Senior Nathan Pomerantz is not phased by the early losses at home and sighted that the Patriots road record is quite impressive. “I’m not concerned with the fact that it’s at home… Last year the patriots went undefeated on the road,” said Pomerantz.
Pomerantz makes an excellent point. The Patriots went 8-0 last year on the road, having impressive wins in Arizona, Pittsburgh, and Denver.
Freshman Adeeb Ahmad said that reaching the Super Bowl is still a realistic possibility. “The Patriots can still make the superbowl as the season has just begun and they have a lot more room to improve,” said Ahmad.
The Patriots had rough starts in multiple seasons in which they won the Super Bowl. It happened in 2014 when they started 2-2, after losing to Miami at home and Kansas City on the road. What ensued after the devastating 41-14 loss in Kansas City, where Tom Brady was benched, was Belichick’s infamous “we’re on to Cincinnati” quote.
The Patriots went on to go 10-2 in their next 12 games, where they clinched the one seed in the AFC.
Sophomore Matthew Zhou thinks the rough start is not something fans need to be worried about. He said, “Every year they’ve won the superbowl they had a rough start so I think as time goes on in the season they’ll be able to fix their weaknesses.”
Besides the Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders pose as a viable threat to dethrone the defending world champs. However, their early season struggles show otherwise.
Freshman Rohan Prakash sees a clear path to the Super Bowl, “because the number one threat is the Raiders and they’re not doing too well either.”
It’s only October, and the Patriots have 12 weeks to plead their case for the number one seed in the AFC. But it shouldn’t come as too big of a task to handle. The Patriots have appeared in the past 6 AFC Championship games.
Patriots fans should gear up for another season with Tom Brady behind center as they try to win their 2nd Super Bowl in a row, and 3 out of the past 4, similar to what they did from 2001-2004.