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Patriots punt Panthers in preseason

Friday's game saw only one touchdown from the Panthers in a contest mainly of field goals.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The week leading up to the preseason game between the Carolina Panthers and the New England Patriots was heated, to say the least. During two joint practice sessions, fights broke out on the turf. During one such scrum, a fan who was watching was hurt when it spilled into an observation area.

Friday's game didn't see fists fly. But it also didn't see touchdowns piling on for either team.

The Patriots initially struggled to find traction offensively with most of their starters on the field for the first time after resting during last week’s exhibition opener. They went three-and-out on their first two series, with Mac Jones misfiring twice on third down.

Carolina started the scoring in the first quarter with a field goal from Zane Gonzalez, netting the only three points at that time in the game. The Patriots, however, had an answer in the second quarter, with Ty Montgomery running into the end zone from a Nick Folk kick and nabbing an extra point once. Folk was able to net New England a field goal of their own as well. Before breaking for halftime, New England had 10 on the board against the Panthers' three points.

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After the half, Carolina found the end zone for the first time in the third quarter, tying it up 10-10; Gonzalez kicked and Tae Hayes ran a 50-yard interception return. Come the fourth quarter, however, New England's Tristan Vizcaino went for the crossbar 51 yards away, inching ahead three more points. With just about 90 seconds of game time left, A Vizcaino kick and a Sam Roberts fumble recovery in the end zone secured a 10-point lead over the Panthers.

In the end, time ran out for the Panthers to effectively answer, falling to the Patriots 20-10 in their second preseason game. 

Carolina had a new starting quarterback Friday at New England, but it wasn't Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold

Instead, PJ Walker started Friday's exhibition against the Patriots. Rookie Matt Corral alternated quarters with Walker, meaning Mayfield and Darnold didn't play at all after several joint practices with the Patriots. 

Head coach Matt Rhule said the decision to play Walker and Corral was made so offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo could give both players a chance to see what the backup role is like in the regular season. It's unclear if the Panthers plan to have four quarterbacks on the roster or if they'll trim the room to three.

As for the starting job, it's unclear when Rhule will decide who is QB1 come Week 1 against the Browns. 

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"It's two things; we want to see them both with the same groups, as best we can, so they both have the same set of receivers, and there's a consistency there," Rhule told Panthers.com. "And then we see them with the third group, so there's some consistency there."

Rhule elaborated, saying McAdoo wants Walker and Corral to understand they must always be ready to go as the backup. Friday's exhibition was meant to be used as a simulation for them coming in and out of the game. 

Walker and Corral split duties in the second half of last week's preseason opener, with Walker getting more action before Corral closed the game. 

However, after Friday's faceoff, Corral left with an injured foot. Walker was intercepted twice as well.

It also wasn't just the quarterbacks in the spotlight either. Cornerback Tae Hayes, an Appalachian State alum, got a Pick 6 off Bailey Zappe. WCNC Charlotte sports director Nick Carboni noted Hayes took an opportunity during the game to run with it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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