Lack of composure showing up: Some wondered how the upstart Panthers would respond to this prime-time stage, but that hasn't been an issue. It's been the Patriots who have shown more of a lack of composure, hurting themselves with big penalties. Cornerback Aqib Talib has been rattled in his matchup with Steve Smith, who has gotten the best of him.
Ridley fumbles again: Running back Stevan Ridley's ball-security issues once again came to the forefront as he lost a fumble on the Patriots' second drive inside the red zone. He didn't play again in the half. We'll keep a close eye on if that continues in the second half.
Offense moving the ball, but ... : The Patriots offense is moving the ball against a tough Carolina defense that has thrived on third down this season. But breakdowns in critical moments have been the undoing for the offense, particularly on the offensive line. The sack which ended the first drive, with left tackle Nate Solder failing to execute his block, looked like a recognition issue based on the pre-snap look as Solder was a bit slow to react.
Vereen snap tracker: In his return to action after coming off the injured reserve list, we've charted running back Shane Vereen on the field for 14 of 33 snaps.
Carter's breakdown on Newton scramble: Veteran defensive end Andre Carter looked like he rushed too far up the right side to open a running lane for Cam Newton on a third-down run. Rush-lane integrity was a key for the team coming into the game and that was a notable slip-up that helped lead to a Panthers field goal.
Injury report: Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury. The team announced his return as questionable. Doctors were looking at his left knee on the sideline.
Patriots get the ball: The Patriots get the ball to open the second half after winning the opening toss and deferring the choice. Still anyone's game.