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Ups And Downs: Brady, Vereen Shine In Patriots' Preseason Win Over Panthers

BOSTON (CBS) --  The third preseason game is usually the closest to the real thing of the four exhibitions, and if that's the case, the Patriots look pretty ready for the regular season.

The Patriots clicked on both sides of the field as their starters saw extended playing time Friday night, trouncing the Carolina Panthers 30-7 at Gillette Stadium.

Here's a quick rundown of all the Ups, and just a couple of Downs, from the preseason tilt:


Tom Was Terrific
Brady performed surgery in his extended action, going 17-for-21 for 204 yards and two touchdowns. He played nearly all of the first half and into the third quarter and completed all 15 passes to guys named Vereen, Edelman and Amendola.

There's little doubt that Brady is ready for the regular season and probably won't see the field next week in the preseason finale against the New York Giants.

Shane Vereen The Touchdown Machine
When Vereen is healthy, he gives the Patriots a very explosive weapon out of the backfield, and that was on full display Friday night. The fourth-year back did most of his damage through the air, catching five passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns.

Vereen showed off his explosiveness in the second quarter, turning a short pass from Brady on a wheel route into a 40-yard touchdown. He was on the field for 26 snaps, accumulating 75 total yards.

Chandler Jones Wreaks Havoc On Line
Jones had a big test in getting after Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, and gets all A's for this one. Jones was disruptive on the defensive line and sacked Newton twice. He was overpowering on the edge, and finished the night with six tackles, including three for a loss.

Jones' fellow edge-rusher Rob Ninkovich started the night with a sack on New England's first defensive play, and it should be noted that both benefited greatly from some stellar coverage by the Patriots' secondary.

Just imagine what Newton was thinking, knowing this guy was on the other side of the field:

Darrelle Revis of the New England Patriots keeps his eyes on Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Both Backup QBs Solid
Ryan Mallett was called on to come off the bench for the Patriots' third drive of the game, simulating what it would be like should he ever have to enter a game for any reason in the regular season (let's all hope it never comes to that). It's a move we've seen head coach Bill Belichick make in the past, making sure his backups have that "be ready for anything" mentality.

Mallett handled his opportunity pretty well, completing two of his three passes for 14 yards. Mallett's lone drive of the game ended with a 47-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

And then there's Jimmy.  Patriots rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo continues to impress whenever he takes the field, and Friday night was more of the same. Garoppolo took over in the third quarter when Brady found his way to the bench for good, and went 9-for-12 for 105 yards and a touchdown. He showed poise in the pocket and had some more success with the long ball.

We're in for one heck of a backup battle next week against the Giants.

Gostkowski Golden Boot
A 60-yard field goal is a 60-yard field goal, preseason or not. Here's the Pats' kicker on his 60-yarder at the end of the first half:

"The thing about trying a long field goal like that is there are no expectations. You go out there, and it's really a win-win situation," he said. "Nobody really expects you to make it, so it really puts your mind at ease. We hit a pretty good kick, and we got out there a little late, the play clock was running down, so I didn't really get to aim. I just kind of kicked it, and luckily the wind blew it enough to the left, a nice little draw, and it just fell in there. It was cool to see everybody getting excited and stuff like that. It was just a pretty cool experience. It was the longest kick I've ever kicked in a game, and it's nice to get an opportunity and take advantage of it."

Even Tom Brady was impressed.

"That's a long ways away, so it gives everybody a lot of confidence that if you get the ball to whatever, the 42-yard line, you've got a chance at three points," said Brady. "That was a great kick, great execution by everybody. Hopefully we can get him a little closer during the season and make it a little easier on Steve, but we know he's got it there in him if we need that to happen at some point this year."


Still No Gronk Or Mayo
There was a chance for both to make their preseason debuts, but both remained on the sidelines for the game.

Gronk's absence should come as no surprise, as the Patriots will take absolutely no chances with their game-changing tight end. He just started participating in contact drills this last week, and we'll see if he sees any preseason action next week or if the Patriots think it's best to give him the exhibition schedule off.

Mayo was back at practice this week after missing last Friday's game with the Eagles and appeared ready to go just before the game, but once again sat out.

Boyce's Bubble Bursting?
The second-year receiver could have used a good performance to help secure a roster spot, but didn't get much playing time. He didn't see the field until very late in the third quarter with other roster hopefuls and did not finish with any catches or kick returns.

One Game To Go
We got a small sample of what the Patriots could look like come Week 1 in Miami and hopefully you soaked that all in. Because we still have one more game that doesn't count, and unfortunately that's the fourth and final preseason game. That's not saying the fourth game isn't worth anything, as it gives many bubble players their final shot to make the team, but September 7 can't come soon enough.


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