Tom Brady is ready for the regular season. After a slow start, Brady led two touchdown drives and Stephen Gostkowski connected on a 60-yard field goal as the New England Patriots defeated the Carolina Panthers, 30-7, in preseason NFL play Friday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Brady played into the third quarter and went 17-for-21, with 204 yards and two touchdowns in five total drives.
New England sputtered in its first two Brady-led drives, so coach Bill Belichick called for backup Ryan Mallett late in the first quarter. Following Julian Edelman’s 30-yard punt return, which put the ball at the New England 49-yard line, Mallett led a seven-play, 22-yard drive that ended when Gostkowski drilled a 47-yard field goal and a 3-0 Pats lead. Mallett was 2-for-3 passing and 14 yards on the drive.
Brady returned for New England’s next drive, and he put together a smart 14-play, 91-yard march. On third and 7 from the Carolina 40, Brady found Shane Vereen in the right flat with nothing but daylight in front of him. Vereen outran two defenders and danced into the end zone for a 10-0 Pats lead.
Late in the first half, Brady did what he does and led a two-minute drive that took the ball from the Pats’ 9-yard line to the Carolina 42 in nine plays. With 8 seconds to go, Gostkowski lined up for a 60-yard field goal. The ball just sneaked over the crossbar. He had never succeeded on a kick that long. New England held a 13-0 lead at the break.
On New England’s first possession of the second half, Brady surgically moved the ball downfield in eight plays, capped by a six-yard Brady pitch and catch with Vereen for his second score of the game and a 20-0 New England lead. Brady and much of the first-team offense took a seat after that.
Jimmy Garoppolo stated his case to be Brady’s primary backup with a fourth quarter scoring drive, leading the team 82 yards in 12 plays, ending in an 11-yard pass to Taylor McCuller. Garoppolo was 9-for-12 in all for 105 yards and a TD for a 30-0 advantage.
On the other side, New England’s defense held Cam Newton and the Carolina offense in check. The Panthers had 95 yards of total offense in the first half, helped along by two sacks.
Newton, who played into the third quarter, went 8-for-12 and 88 yards passing.
Carolina’s only score of the night came with just over a minute remaining as fourth-string quarterback Joe Webb connected with D.C. Jefferson for a three-yard touchdown.
A Carolina a third-quarter drive inside the Patriots’ 5-yard line was thwarted by a Steve Beauharnais interception. It was the game’s only turnover.