The Patriots were on the wrong end of yet another controversial call in the final seconds of a loss, this time a 24-20 letdown against the Carolina Panthers.
It would be too easy to focus in on the one play at the end of the game. Instead, let's look at some of the players over the course of the game who had an impact on the outcome, for better or worse.
Rob Gronkowski: Dragged three defenders with him into the end zone for a touchdown, and caught a big 23-yard pass on 4th-and-10 to keep the Patriots final drive alive. Hauled in five of the seven passes thrown his direction and was generally a mismatch for the Panthers where ever he went on the field.
Shane Vereen: Plenty of action for Vereen in his first game back in the lineup, with a team-leading 11 targets and turned it into eight catches for 65 yards, adding a carry for seven yards. They used him a lot on curl routes and screens, getting him in space and with an opportunity to make a play. The Patriots offense has been missing that kind of security blanket all season long.
Tom Brady: One of Brady's best passing performances of the season, with his highest completion percentage (72.5) and his third-highest yards per attempt (7.4). People will remember his game-ending interception for many reasons, but they should also remember that few quarterbacks would have even been able to put their team in position to win the game.
Aqib Talib: Was on the wrong end of the spotlight from an early point, allowing a 43-yard reception to wide receiver Steve Smith and being called for two penalties for 20 yards. Talib's lone pass-defensed was on a poorly thrown pass over the middle for Smith. It was not a good return to action for Talib after missing the past three games with a hip injury.
Defensive line: At least three times, Cam Newton was able to evade the rush and find an open lane to get upfield. Pocket containment was a key for this game, and in an effort to get pressure on Newton, the Patriots defensive line rushed too hard upfield and lost their gaps. This allowed for runs of 24, 14 and 15 yards. Newton finished with seven rushes for 62 yards on the night.
Stevan Ridley: Landed in the doghouse for yet another fumble, but it's worth noting that this is Ridley's second straight game fumbling, returning to the game and scoring a touchdown.
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