CHARLOTTE — As he has a number of times after games this year, Panthers outside linebacker Haason Reddick said he didn't want to talk about the team's offense.
But he was willing to talk about what he felt was a "dirty" play by Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who pulled Panthers defensive end Brian Burns down by the ankle following a first-half strip-sack.
Burns came out of the game briefly, but eventually returned. But the soft-spoken Reddick was obviously upset, though he chose his words carefully.
"I definitely thought it was a dirty play," Reddick said. "I actually saw and witnessed the play while it was happening as I was running. I saw him over there. At first, it looked like he was trying to trip or kick Burns, and then the next thing you know, I noticed I saw him tugging on Burns' ankle. I thought it was completely dirty. Hopefully it's something that the league addresses.
"I think it was surprising to not see that a penalty was called. It seems like they are always protecting the offensive players. Where's the protection for the defensive players as well? I don't know. I felt like that was a call that shouldn't be missed. I'm going to speak out on it. Whatever the consequences, however the referees feel that's how they feel. But it looked completely intentional from where I was standing and I was pretty close. I don't think that was a call that should've been missed."
Burns left the game again in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury and didn't finish the game, though Reddick said, "He'll be all right."
As to the inevitable questions about the struggles of the offense, he wasn't trying to avoid comment; he just didn't want to speak on anything he wasn't a part of.
"Respectfully, I just ask that anybody that has questions about the offense for me please don't ask me those," he said. "I don't play the offensive side of the ball. I try to make that clear every time I come in here and y'all ask me about the offense. I don't play the offensive side of the ball. I don't know what's going on on that side of the ball. I don't coach it. I don't play it, so respectfully please do not ask me any questions about what happens on the offensive side of the ball."
New Panthers cornerback Stephon Gilmore had an interception in his second straight game, getting Jones in the first half. Much like last week's interception in front of Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts, Gilmore slipped in front of Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who Gilmore was familiar with from practice during his time in New England.
"I was going against Jakobi, and I know how he releases off the ball," Gilmore said. "So, I gave him room and beat him to the spot. He kind of ran into his own player, but I was going to beat him there anyway. So just film study and knowing who I am going against."
The day might have been emotional for Gilmore, playing in his hometown for the first time in the regular season. But playing against the team that just traded him here didn't seem to impact him much.
"It was no emotions," he said. "You know it is just a business. Obviously, I have a lot of relationships over there with my teammates and coaches, but it is part of it. We have those relationships forever. It was just another game for me. I studied and played how I wanted to play and went from there."
HAPPY HOMECOMING, PART II
Running back Christian McCaffrey was back on the field after missing the previous five games following his hamstring strain in Houston. He finished with 14 carries for 52 yards, and four catches for 54 yards.
That followed with their plan to spread the backfield workload.
McCaffrey said his "body felt good" after the game, and said he realized while practicing last week he had a good chance to come back this week.
"I practiced all week and felt good, so usually if I feel good in practice, I know that I'm ready to go," he said.
"I thought it was a good first game back," Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said. "We had him on a double-move touchdown that got batted down early in the game. I thought he obviously was good as he always is in the passing game. I thought he was good in the running game. He is always going to generate offense. I thought he did a nice job of that. Obviously, it was good to have him back."
Rhule said that center Matt Paradis was getting an MRI on the knee injury that knocked him out on the second play of the game. Rhule described it as "somewhat serious on the field."
After the game, NFL Media reported that Paradis had suffered a torn ACL and would be out for the season.
The 32-year-old center's a free agent at the end of this season. He was voted a team captain this season.
The Panthers activated Pat Elflein from injured reserve last week, and he can play center. He was inactive Sunday.
View photos from Bank of America Stadium as the Panthers take on the Patriots in Week 9.