Carolina Panthers defeat New England Patriots, 27-17

What the New England Patriots proved yesterday is what some of their more rabid fans long ago seem to have forgotten.

They're human. Nothing worse than that.

They had a bad day against a good team, and when you have a bad day against a good team what follows is the kind of mess they produced at Bank of America Stadium, a 27-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers that was worse than the score made it seem but not yet cause for anyone to run off wearing sackcloth and ashes.

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After giving up a blocked extra point and blocked punt last week in the season opener against Oakland, the Patriots looked for better play from their special teams.

Well, at least there wasn't a kick blocked.

The Panthers averaged 21.3 yards on six punt returns, and 26.3 yards on four kickoff returns, helping them to an average starting position of their 38-yard line, compared to the Patriots' average start at their 22.

Carolina's Chris Gamble had a 76-yard punt r...

In the locker room afterward, a few Patriots managed to chuckle at what one described as ''the ridiculousness of it all."

Bill Belichick shared nary a smile.

While what happened to his football team yesterday was without question a comedy of errors, none of it was particularly funny to New England's coach.

The situation of said comedy was a road game before a raucous crowd against a Carolina squad bent on righting itself after a season-opening loss at home.

The...

The body language said as much as the scoreboard. After he watched Benjamin Watson fumble away the Patriots' last chance yesterday afternoon, Tom Brady stood with his hands on his hips, then jogged slowly to the sideline with his head down and took a sip of water. The long, hot Sunday was over and the rerun wasn't going to look any better in an air-conditioned film room.

''Losing sucks," the losing quarterback said, after the Panthers had made a 27-17 meal out of their ...