The Patriots managed just a field goal through the opening three quarters and did not get into the end zone until the final three minutes in a 25-14 setback against the Panthers.
New England coach Bill Belichick, who can be dour toward the media following the best of performances by his club, didn't see much that he liked Friday night.
"The Panthers ... outplayed us across the board for four quarters," said Belichick in postgame remarks. "We have a lot of work to do, it really wasn't any part of the game that was very competitive. We just have to go back to work, and see if we can find a way to do a few things better that we did them tonight."
Carolina's first-team unit moved the ball at will against New England, which posted a 37-20 victory over Philadelphia in its second preseason game. The Panthers led only 9-3 at the half but had to settle for a pair of short field goals after moving inside the 10-yard line twice.
"We just have to go back to work," said Belichick. "Obviously have a lot of work to do, weren't able to accomplish much tonight, didn't play well in any three phases of the game. Just have to go back to work and do a better job than that."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who finished 12 of 18 for 102 yards, echoed the sentiments of Belichick.
"I think we all would like to play better. I think any time you go on the road and play a good team you've got to make the plays," said Brady. "I think tonight's a great example when you don't and they do. We didn't do much in the first quarter and got behind. Then you fight uphill all night against a good team it's tough to win.
"So hopefully we can take something from it and get back to work and see if we can do a better job next time."
One positive for New England was the play of wide receivers Phillip Dorsett and newcomer Cordarrelle Patterson. New England traded away No. 1 wideout Brandin Cooks in the offseason, saw Danny Amendola leave via free agency and will be without Julian Edelman for the first four games of the regular season due to suspension.
Patterson had five catches for 37 yards and Dorsett added four receptions for 36 yards while drawing positive reviews from Brady and Edelman.
"He's been dependable," noted Brady. "It's been great to watch. We got him late last year and I think he's been banging it out, trying to find a role and he's done a great job with his opportunities."
Added Edelman: He's explosive. He's competing. So he's doing good things, but you have to ask the coaches on that, I'm not a talent evaluator. But I like him and I like playing with him. He made some big plays for us today so we'll go from there."