The New England Patriots are above .500 for the first time this season after a dominating win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, giving the club its third-consecutive victory. Even as the team committed two early turnovers and gave the Panthers strong field position, the defense held them to field goals and the offense would respond with immediate touchdowns on the other side, displaying strong complementary football, which helped them to move to 5-4 on the year.
Next up for the Patriots is a critical home matchup with the Cleveland Browns in Week 10 that will almost certainly have an impact on the current playoff picture in the AFC. Before we fully turn our attention to that game, however, let’s take a look at this latest win over Carolina and take the temperature on where various players are coming out of that convincing win.
When you force two interceptions, it’s safe to assume your stock will be rising. J.C. Jackson was a black hole for Sam Darnold on Sunday as he recorded two interceptions, including a pick-6 in the third quarter. That pick-6 was really the dagger that solidified the victory for New England. After both offenses recorded three-and-outs to begin the second half, Carolina drove 64 yards down the field and had just crept into the red zone, trailing 14-6. It was at that point when Jackson was able to pick off Darnold and return it 88 yards for a touchdown, stretching New England’s lead to 15.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson allowed just one reception for 2 yards on four targets on Sunday on top of those two interceptions. Can’t get much better than that. Since entering the NFL in 2018, Jackson leads the league in interceptions (22) and passer rating allowed (41.5), according to Next Gen Stats (min. 150 targets).
Craving even more NFL coverage focusing on previews, recaps, news and analysis? Listen below and follow the Pick Six podcast for a daily dose of everything you need to follow pro football.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Isaiah Wynn this season. The left tackle was matched up against Panthers pass-rusher Brian Burns and allowed him to record a strip-sack on Mac Jones. Tight end Hunter Henry chipped Burns before going out on his route and Wynn couldn’t get over in time to make the block before he got to Jones.
On the day, Wynn accounted for two pressures and was flagged for a false start in the first half.
While Jones has been the rookie that’s captured most of the attention in New England, there’s another first-year player out of Alabama on the Patriots that’s really starting to blossom. Christian Barmore has been a force in the interior of New England’s defensive line and arguably had his best game of the season on Sunday. He finished with three total pressures while charging up the middle of the Carolina O-line and was able to get his hand on two throws by Darnold and bat them down to the ground. While it’s still early in his career, Barmore is showing flashes of being a foundational piece along the defensive line.
Stock up: Running backs
The running back trio of Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Brandon Bolden turned in an impressive showing in Week 9. That group accounted for 220 of the offense’s 273 yards on the day. Stevenson has started to come into his own during his rookie season and led the team in rushing (62 yards) and receiving (44 yards). His biggest play of the day was a 41-yard catch and run from Jones that put new England on the doorstep of the red zone and eventually led to a Harris touchdown.
Unfortunately, both Stevenson and Harris left this game due to injury, but when they were on the field, they were key contributors to the win.
Stock down: Wide receivers
While the running backs carried the offense, it was a quiet day for Patriots receivers. Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, and Nelson Agholor combined for just four catches for 42 yards. Agholor didn’t record a catch in the win, despite playing in 54 of a possible 62 offensive snaps. New England may not have needed these three to win on Sunday, but will need higher production from them going forward.
Jamie Collins’ athleticism was on full display Sunday, particularly when he made an impressive leaping interception in the third quarter. Collins was able to time his jump perfectly to snatch the ball just as it was sailing over the line of scrimmage.
According to Next Gen Stats, Collins intercepted that pass 0.17 seconds after the ball was released, which is the lowest amount of air time on an interception in the site’s history (since 2016). Collins also finished his day with two tackles (one for a loss).