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Rapid Reactions: Panthers fall to Patriots, 20-10

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It was a bit of an anticlimactic end to an intense week with the Patriots.

But other than the potential of a late injury concern, the Panthers mostly got what they needed out of their trip to New England.

The Panthers lost 20-10 to the Patriots in the actual game Friday night at Gillette Stadium, but that was just a small part of the week. Tempers flared during the joint practices that preceded the game, but mostly it was good work for two days against a solid Patriots defense. Those joint practices earned most starters the night off, having already gotten so many productive snaps in a controlled environment.

The quarterbacks who played had an underwhelming night for the Panthers, with PJ Walker and Matt Corral alternating quarters.

Walker led an early field goal drive, but also threw two interceptions, and he finished the night 8-of-15 passing for 107 yards (36.7 passer rating).

Corral was 9-of-15 for 58 yards in the second and fourth (68.2 passer rating). He threw a couple of passes that could have been intercepted, and was limping late in the game with a foot issue after he was sacked on consecutive plays. Walker came back in to finish the game, and fumbled in the end zone, which the Patriots recovered for a touchdown. He also threw his second interception at the end of the game.

The Panthers had tied the game 10-10 in the third quarter on a 50-yard interception return by cornerback Tae Hayes, off Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe.

— Left tackle Ikem Ekwonu started the game next to left guard Brady Christensen, and they played the first quarter with Walker before coming out of the game.

He was in the vicinity of a pair of sacks on the second possession, while playing against the Patriots' first defense.

Ekwonu's physicality in the run game will be a plus immediately, but he'll have to get better as a pass-protector, especially with Browns defensive end Myles Garrett on tap in the regular season opener.

This was a chance against a good front seven, and more reps to gel with Christensen, but he's still very early in his process.

— Veteran tackle Cameron Erving left the game briefly with an elbow injury, and was initially listed as questionable to return. But he was back in the game later in the second quarter.

Safety Juston Burris (rib) and defensive end Amaré Barno (hamstring) also picked up injuries, and didn't return to the game. Running back Spencer Brown (ankle) was carted off the field as well.

— The Panthers were nearly playing with a regular-season roster, as there were 31 players listed as scratches before the game. There are 85 on the roster at the moment (they'll have to cut five more by Tuesday).

That group watching included most starters and players dealing with injury issues. Cornerback Jaycee Horn was initially slated to play some, but he worked out before the game and looked good, so they let him watch.

Keith Taylor Jr. and Stantley Thomas-Oliver III started at cornerback, and the second defense held Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and the starting offense to three-and-outs on the first two possessions. It was a solid start for the second group (with special teams standout Julian Stanford getting a sack early).

— While the regulars didn't play many snaps on offense or defense, the special teams continued to have a solid showing. The Panthers have improved in that area this offseason, and a number of core players ( Sam Franklin Jr., Giovanni Ricci, and others) are already emerging.

— Rookie linebacker Brandon Smith had a sack in the third quarter, and is another player who has shown some aptitude for special teams.

The Panthers are experienced at linebacker, so it's unclear how much time he'll see on defense in the regular season, but the fourth-rounder has made himself visible during the preseason.

View the best in-game photos from Carolina's preseason game at New England.

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