Saturday, August 24, 2002

Patriots 23, Panthers 3

The Associated Press

        FOXBORO, Mass. — Tom Brady finally looked like the quarterback who was the Super Bowl MVP. He struggled through the first half Friday night then threw his first two touchdown passes of the exhibition season to lead the New England Patriots to a 23-3 win over the Carolina Panthers.

        “Playing like we did in the first half, that's not going to beat anyone,” he said. “That's not going to beat my high school team.”

        But it was enough to build a 6-3 halftime lead over Carolina, which lost its 18th straight game since winning the opener last season on Sept. 9 at Minnesota.

        “I was disappointed in our effort,” Panthers coach John Fox said. “Offensively, we were out of kilter most of the evening.”

        And defensively, they faltered on the Patriots' first two series of the second half which ended with touchdown passes to New England newcomers David Givens and Christian Fauria as the Patriots (2-1) shut down the Panthers.

        “When plays are good and you put them back to back you start feeling better about yourself and you get a little swagger,” Brady said.

        In the first half, Brady was just 9-for-17 for 52 yards and one interception and was sacked twice. He finished 16-for-25 for 203 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in three quarters.

        Adam Vinatieri, whose 48-yard field goal on the last play won the Super Bowl last February, added three field goals and is 10-for-11 in exhibition games.

        Carolina (0-3) was 1-15 last season when it lost the finale 38-6 to the Patriots.

        While New England's offense improved in the second half, Carolina's kept sputtering. The Panthers punted nine times, threw one interception and turned the ball over on downs once.

        All that came after they took a 3-0 lead on their first possession on Jaret Holmes' 41-yard field goal that followed 50-yard gain by Mushin Muhammad on a reverse on Carolina's first offensive play. Carolina finished with 209 yards

        “We had control except for that first play,” Patriots defensive tackle Richard Seymour said. “Other than that, we contained them.”

        Panthers quarterback Chris Weinke played into the fourth quarter and finished with 14 completions in 26 attempts for 112 yards and one interception. He was replaced by Rodney Peete after Carolina's first series of the final period

        “We did some good things and had some setbacks with some penalties,” Weinke said. “We were three points down to the defending champs. There were some positive things but a lot for us to work on.”

        Brady was off target in the first half, when he underthrew two deep passes. In his first season as a starter last year, he rarely threw long as the coaches tried to protect him from mistakes.

        “Any time you are zero for nine on third down conversions (in the first half) you're not going to have the ball very long,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

        His first deep throw Friday resulted in an interception by Cordell Taylor. On the next, David Patten came back for it and was interfered with by Taylor for a 25-yard penalty that put the ball at the Carolina 14. Three plays later, Vinatieri's 27-yard field goal made it 6-3 with 3:26 gone in the second quarter.

        He had played three quarters in the first two games and was 18-for-30 for 220 yards and two interceptions.

        But on the Patriots' first offensive play of the third quarter he completed a 36-yard pass to Patten to the Panthers' 29. After a 10-yard penalty, he hooked up with Patten for a 28-yard gain to the 11.

        Three plays later, he hit Givens, a seventh-round draft pick from Notre Dame, with a 12-yard strike. Vinatieri's extra point made it 13-3.

        After Todd Sauerbrun punted, Brady started the next drive with completions of 5 yards to Antowain Smith and 53 yards to Patten, putting the ball at the Carolina 23. After five runs, Brady threw an 8-yard touchdown to Fauria, signed as a free agent from Seattle.

        Notes:Patriots MLB Tedy Bruschi will undergo an MRI on his right knee Saturday. He was injured in the first quarter and hopes to be back for the season opener Sept. 9. ... Muhammad's run accounted for 50 of Carolina's 88 rushing yards. ... The Patriots rushed for only 69 yards.


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