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Patriots look for improvement in 3rd preseason game against Cam Newton, Panthers

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FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — Bill Belichick is looking for some major improvement from the New England Patriots as they head to Carolina for Friday night's third preseason game.

"We weren't very good on either side of the ball, or in the kicking game," the coach said Wednesday when talking about last week's 26-24 victory at New Orleans.

New England's first-teamers were significantly outplayed by the Saints starters.

"Bad coaching, bad playing, put it all down. We weren't very good."

The third game of the preseason is regarded as the most important since the starters usually receive the most playing time.

The Patriots, who still don't know if quarterback Tom Brady will be available when the regular season starts, open on Sept. 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The season opener isn't far away, making this week of preparation more like getting ready for a regular-season game.

"It's huge," running back Jonas Gray said of this week's game.

PHOTO: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches a team scrimmage during an NFL football practice in Foxborough, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches a team scrimmage during an NFL football practice in Foxborough, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

"We want to go out there and we want to win — just like any game we play. But we know to be a great team and to be a good team, you gotta be able to run the ball, stop the run and cover kicks and we didn't do any of that well.

"This week, the one thing we're focusing on is just having a better complete game and we're looking forward to it."

Belichick stressed the importance of this week's game for getting ready for the regular season.

"I think an important week for us in terms of starting to develop a little bit of a routine, especially for players that haven't been in this program before for them to understand what the expectations are, what the routine is, where they should be at various points during the week leading up to the game," Belichick said.

The Patriots, who lost their preseason opener at home to Green Bay, are allowing 417 yards per game, including 323 through the air.

The defense is dealing with the loss of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington as well as Vince Wilfork on the line and struggled against Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

This week, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is the concern for the defense.

Brady has thrown just nine preseason passes and his top options, tight end Rob Gronkowski and slot receiver Julian Edelman (injured) haven't played. Jimmy Garoppolo, entering his second season as Brady's backup, is working toward what could be his role as a starter if the Brady suspension is upheld.

NOTES: Tight end Scott Chandler (leg) and offensive lineman Ryan Wendell (shoulder) have returned to practice. "I think every player wants to be on the field every snap," said Wendell, who came off physically unable to perform list. "I've been trying to get Bill to use me on defense and special teams, so I think that every player wants to be out there all the time." . Garoppolo on the number of reporters around his locker Wednesday and any other time he talks: "At Eastern Illinois we had the same amount of media. No, I'm just kidding. It's been a little bit of an adjustment. I'm getting more and more used to it as we go, but it comes with the job I guess. You've got to get used to it."


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