As the New England Patriots head to halftime of their Week 4 game against the Carolina Panthers, trailing 17-16, here are some first half thoughts:

Feeling The Pressure- The Patriots offensive line had a rough first half protecting quarterback Tom Brady, who was feeling pressure more than his fair share of pressure throughout the first two quarters. Brady was sacked twice and hit two more times over the first 30 minutes of action. Along with the shots taken, the 40-year-old was consistently given little time to release the ball, leading to a lot of throws underneath the coverage and into the flats. Brady doesn't look comfortable in the pocket, so far.

Losing The Battle- One of the key story lines entering the game was the battle between the embarrassing New England defense and the equally inept Panther offense. As it currently stands, the Pats defense is getting steamrolled in the head-to-head competition. Cam Newton, who has looked anything but good so far this season, has had his way most of the first half. With the exception of one pass, in which he failed to see Malcolm Butler back in coverage and ended up getting picked off, Newton has been strong, completing 11 of 13 passes for 189 yards and two scores. Not only has Newton made some nice plays, but the Pats defense has continued to make poor decisions in coverage and been incapable of limiting big plays. New England was burned on multiple big plays over the first two quarters, with the secondary looking especially incompetent. Multiple times, late in the second quarter, third corner Eric Rowe was burned in coverage. he also missed a sure tackle, which would have halted Carolina's final scoring drive back in their own territory and forced them to punt to the Pats with about three minutes on the clock. A few plays late, the Panthers were in the end zone with the lead. Another unfortunate early season theme popped up again in the Pats secondary, in the first half. At least two times, there seemed to be miscommunication between Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty, which directly led to big plays and scores.

Kicking Strong- While the defense has, again, looked terrible and the offense has stalled a couple of times, the New England kicking game, led by Stephen Gostkowski has looked good so far. Gostkowski was a perfect 3-3 in the first half, including banking a career-high and franchise record 58-yarder off the right upright and through for a final second field goal.


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