FOXBOROUGH — Things got a little heated at Gillette Stadium Friday night.
Thankfully, however, the warmth was all about the weather and not about any tempers boiling over as they had at joint practices during the week. On this balmy night — it was 85 at kickoff —- was all about flinging footballs rather than flying fists.
The Patriots and Panthers squared off (figuratively speaking, of course) for the third time in four days with New England notching a 20-10 win in the second preseason game for both clubs.
Mac Jones took his first game snaps of the summer and, after a sluggish start, showed a little sizzle and sneak peek at what this Patriots offense is capable of.
It was a rough first couple series for Jones, who threw behind DeVante Parker on his first attempt and was sacked on his next dropback. On his second possession, Jones threw high to Jakobi Meyers and had a pass deflected at the line.
Jones warmed up nicely on his third series, completing 4 of 5 passes, including a beautiful 45-yard sideline spiral to Nelson Agholor to set up New England’s first touchdown.
While Matt Patricia sent the signals into Jones (and later Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe) it’s still not 100 percent clear who is calling the actual plays.
“[Patricia handled] communication with the quarterback, yeah,’’ said coach Bill Belichick. “As far as the play calls, there’s a whole other process on that.”
Quarterbacks coach Joe Judge huddled with Jones and his backups on the bench between series, similar to the way Josh McDaniels would meet with his guys. Patricia, meanwhile, often gathered with the offensive line while the defense was on the field.
During the commercial break after the first quarter, Belichick chatted with Jones as the QB played toss with Hoyer. Two plays later, he hit his deep shot to Agholor.
“It was a little bit of rocky start, but that’s how it goes when you haven’t played for a little bit,’’ said Jones. “The guys kind of came together and operated, didn’t freak out or anything just carried on and got our mojo back and kept everything going forward. It was a good drive.’’
Jones felt the communication with the sideline was good.
“I think Matty’s done a great job. He’s one of the most brilliant people I’ve been around in terms of football knowledge,’’ said Jones. “Between all the coaches we have, they’ve done a great job preparing us and he’s really starting to get a feel for it.’’
Some other observations on the Patriots last appearance at Gillette until Week 3′s home opener against the Ravens on Sept. 25:
▪ The defense was fired up.
The projected New England starters stifled Carolina’s second unit (Matt Rhule sat most of his 1′s). On one early series, the unit registered three straight tackles for losses with Ja’Whaun Bentley blowing up a screen pass and Deatrich Wise and Josh Uche notching back-to-back sacks, both of which came at the expense of rookie ;eft tackle Ikem Ekwonu, the sixth overall pick.
▪ Defensive formation
With cornerback one of the most hotly contested positional battles of camp, the Patriots rolled out Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones on the perimeter and Myles Bryant in the slot to start the game. Jones, still among the fastest defenders in the NFL, has shown well on the outside after spending most of his first six seasons on the inside.
The backups were able to maintain the momentum and Carolina was limited to just 192 net yards.
Shaun Wade and Brenden Schooler had interceptions and Sam Roberts recovered a fumble in the end zone for the final touchdown.
▪ School’s in
Schooler might be the club’s newest special teams gem. He plays kick coverage like a rampaging beast, combining speed, vision, and a knack for finding the ball. He’s fun.
▪ Tight spot
With Hunter Henry a scratch and Jonnu Smith removed with the rest of the starters, there were plenty of snaps for third-year tight end Devin Asiasi and he responded with three catches for 32 yards on New England’s final possession of the first half. He’s in a battle with Matt Sokol to nail down the third tight end spot.
▪ Odds and ends
Belichick successfully used his challenge flag late in the first half after Joshuah Bledsoe jarred the ball loose following a completion to Stephen Sullivan. It was initially ruled an incomplete pass. The fumble recovery led to Nick Folk’s 36-yard field goal. For the record, the Patriots sideline went bonkers when Belichick tossed the red flag … Zappe finished 16 of 25 for 173 yards and a pick-6. The rookie continued to show poise and a strong arm … Lil’Jordan Humphrey had game highs in catches (5) and receiving yards (71) but his best play came on special teams when he fought off two blockers and went airborne in the end zone to bat a ball backward and prevent a touchback. It was an elite play. Receiver spots are going to be hard to come by on cut-down day, but Humphrey keeps making a push … J.J. Taylor (game-high 33 rushing yards) had the block of the night when he leveled Kenny Robinson — the Panther who blindsided Kristian Wilkerson on Wednesday — on a blitz pickup.