What do you feel was the biggest factor that lead to the Patriots losing on Monday Night?
Jason: I won't place the entire blame on the refs, even if they were less useful than an abstinence brochure in a brothel on that last play. To me, it was an issue of poor defensive gameplanning. Cam's most dangerous weapon is his feet, but the Pats rarely committed an extra defender to spy him when they played man coverage. With a quarterback like Newton, you can't play man defense and keep your safeties deep. You have to push the pocket back, respect his running ability and challenge him to beat you down the field. Tackling was also a big issue, especially in the secondary. That falls on the coaches too.
Rick: The biggest factor for the Patriots losing Monday night was poor tackling in the secondary that extended plays for Cam Newton and the Pathers. Case in point was the 3rd down where Cam avoided six tackles to get the first down and then the Ted Ginn TD where Kyle Arrington couldn't wrap him up. Another factor was the inability to score touchdowns in the red zone. This has been a Patriots' problem all season, but has gone away recently due to the return of Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots still don't trust Stevan Ridley because of his fumbling issues. Even though Ridley does cough up the rock a lot, New England has to show more trust in him if they want to make it to the Super Bowl. Ridley has five touchdowns in his last four games and is clearly more dynamic of a running back than Blount or Vereen. There was the drive that started on the CAR 40 in the 4th quarter where the run was working. Then, Brady tried a play action on 3rd and 1 inside the red zone with Aaron Dobson as the lone receiver? When the running game works, you have to stick with it. I know we love to see the Patriots light up the scoreboard and Brady is capable of that. However, the Patriots have lost in past years because of an inability to run the ball or to play physical. We saw signs of that Monday night.
Raj: Everyone is pointing fingers at that call. I want to look at two key moments of the game though. One was the 3rd and 1 deep inside Carolina territory. The Patriots decided to pass the ball into the endzone when they had a pretty good running game going. And then on 4th and 1 they settled for a field goal. In my opinion they should have went for it. This leads to my second key moment, Newton's TD pass to Ginn with a minute left in the game. Why would the Patriots decide to use zone coverage and have Kyle Arrington on the outside? That's an awful play call with that less time left on the clock. You could pick either one or both moments but they definitely were big factors to why the Patriots lost. Can't blame it all on the call even though we all (even I) want to.
Derek: As my three colleagues have already pointed out, as awful as that final decision by the referees was, the Patriots did just as much, if not more to ensure that they would leave Carolina with a loss. After all, even if the flag stood, the Patriots still have to punch the ball in from the 1-yard line. That's a high-percentage play, but still no guarantee. To me, the biggest moment of the game was not any of Cam Netwon's scrambles, or even Kyle Arrington's horrific coverage on the Panthers go-ahead touchdown. The worst mistake made on the field was Stevan Ridley's fumble in the first half. At a minimum, that play took three points off the board, and possibly seven. With the Patriots on the 18-yard line with four seconds left in the game, down by four, those three extra points would have made a big difference. Ridley has to hold onto the ball. At this point, the Patriots can't afford to not put him out there. He's simply too good of a rusher compared to the rest of the backs. At the same time, I cringe thinking of what might happen when he coughs up the ball in January.