By Rachel G. Bowers and Ben Volin, Globe Staff
The box score says the Panthers beat the Patriots on Sunday, 33-30, at Gillette Stadium.
After the game, the Patriots felt otherwise.
“We lost the game ourselves,” cornerback Malcolm Butler said. “There was nothing that Carolina was doing. Basically we beat ourselves.”
The level of concern about the defense has reached DEFCON 1 after another day of meltdowns led to a surprising loss at home.
“It’s communication, it’s assignments, just busted coverages,” safety Duron Harmon said. “At the end of the day, it starts with communication. You can zone in on that.”
PATRIOTS LINK UP: Christopher L. Gasper: The Patriots can’t keep leaving Tom Brady to fly solo.
■ Chad Finn: Let’s face it, the Patriots are fortunate to be 2-2.
■ Physicality is perhaps Stephon Gilmore’s greatest strength. But it has become destructive.
■ Takeaways from the Panthers’ upset of the Patriots. It was the first time since 1989 the Patriots lost at home on the final play of the fourth quarter, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
■ Cam Newton came through when many other quarterbacks would have crumbled.
■ Notebook: Stephen Gostkowski set a franchise record, Dont’a Hightower made his return, Brady reached another milestone, and more.
■ The Patriots have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for more than 300 passing yards in every game this season. Last year, they had three such games.
■ Officials called a “tight” game, but Brady says it’s no excuse.
THE NFL AND PROTESTS: Six Days in September: NFL players seized control as the league scrambled.
■ After protests by players, the NFL plots a careful path forward.
■ Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins: What protesting NFL players like me want to do next.
■ Jenkins’s next goal? Passing new legislation.
■ Patriots players placed one hand over their heart and another on a teammate’s shoulder during the national anthem.
■ Here’s what every NFL team did during the national anthem on Sunday.
■ This time, Alejandro Villanueva and the Steelers stood together for the anthem.
■ In a team meeting last week, Lions owner Martha Ford promised to donate money to whatever cause players chose if they did not kneel for the national anthem.
MAKE YOUR READS: When Devin McCourty speaks, “everybody’s eyes are just glued to him.”
■ Please rise for our national anthem — if you’re not too busy.
■ At 33 years old, Vernon Davis is one of the NFL’s ageless idols.
■ O.J. Simpson slips away after being released from Nevada prison, whereabouts unknown.
■ It’s more than a wave at Iowa.
■ BU might be closer to diagnosing CTE during life.
■ The photography of the Giants’ Romeo Okwara.
AROUND THE LEAGUE: What Monday’s court hearing means for Ezekiel Elliott’s playing status.
■ Vikings running back Dalvin Cook suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season, the team announced Monday.
■ Rookie Mitch Trubisky will start over Mike Glennon for the Bears against the Vikings.
■ Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson donated his first paycheck to three women who work in the Texans’ cafeteria.
■ How Watson carved up the Titans’ defense, and what it means for Houston.
■ Marshawn Lynch showed up for Oakland’s game in Denver wearing a T-shirt that read: “Everybody vs. Trump.”
■ Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan was suspended two games for his hit on Packers receiver Davante Adams.
■ Adam Kilgore: Trevathan’s hit shows that the NFL needs the NCAA’s targeting rule.
■ Falcons receiver Julio Jones isn’t expected to miss any time after suffering a hip flexor injury in a loss to the Bills.
■ After rushing 23 times for 121 yards and catching seven passes for 94 yards, Rams running back Todd Gurley became the first player to roll up 200 yards against Dallas since 2013. All together now: The Rams are for real.
■ LeGarrette Blount, the former Patriot, recorded his first 100-yard rushing effort as an Eagle, carrying 16 times for 136 yards in a win over the Chargers. Blount is now one of four players in league history with 100-yard rushing games with at least four different teams.
■ Le’Veon Bell has carried the ball 35 times in two games since last December, the most recent coming Sunday against the Ravens when he toted it 35 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns. No other player has rushed 35 times in a game over the last three seasons.
■ Antonio Brown threw a water cooler after he was wide open on a third down and wasn’t targeted.
■ The Bills’ playmaking defense is the foundation of a contender.
■ LeSean McCoy told the media to “come talk to winners” after Buffalo upset Atlanta. This was the fourth time the club has notched a road victory versus a team that boasted a record of 3-0 or better, according to Elias.
■ Manish Mehta: Todd Bowles deserves plenty of credit for the Jets’ unexpected 2-2 start.
■ Adam Gase needs to rethink Miami’s quarterback situation.
■ The Dolphins are searching for answers, but say it’s not time to panic despite their dismal start.
■ After a loss to the Bengals, coach Hue Jackson again said the coaching staff and front office are not at odds. Jackson is now 1-19 in Cleveland. He became the third coach in league history to lose 19 times in their first 20 contests, according to Elias.
■ Browns fans poured out of the stadium in the third quarter.
■ Ameer Abdullah is the spark the Lions — and their dormant run game — need. Abdullah was 6 yards away from breaking Detroit’s 56-game streak without a player recording 100 rushing yards, the longest streak in franchise history, according to Elias.
■ Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston helped kicker Nick Folk go from a goat to hero in a win over the Giants.