Tom Brady overcame two early interceptions to lead his first touchdown drive of the preseason as the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers, 17-16, on Friday night.
The preseason has been a titanic struggle for Brady, who is awaiting word on his appeal of a four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate.
After managing just three first downs in his first 11 preseason possessions, Brady finally got on track, leading an 80-yard scoring drive before halftime running the hurry-up offense. He capped the drive with a well-placed 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Scott Chandler.
The Patriots played again without tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receivers Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman.
Carolina managed just two field goals in the first half behind Cam Newton and trailed, 7-6, at halftime. Corey Brown bobbled away an easy touchdown pass from Newton — one of four Carolina drops in the first half.
Newton finished 17 of 28 for 160 yards and a touchdown.
Smith sharp in Chiefs’ win over Titans
Alex Smith passed for 171 yards and two touchdowns in less than a half, and the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense looked the sharpest it has all preseason in a weather-shortened 34-10 victory over the visiting Tennessee Titans.
The game was called with 3 minutes 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter after thunder rumbled and lightning streaked across the sky. Heavy rains had turned one end zone into a lake.
Smith completed 16 of 18 passes before giving way to third-string quarterback Aaron Murray just before halftime. Murray played the rest of the game for the Chiefs (3-0), passing for 146 yards and two touchdown passes with one interception as backup Chase Daniel got the night off.
Marcus Mariota got off to a slow start for Tennessee (1-2), misfiring on his first three throws. But the first-round pick out of Oregon was 7 of 8 for 99 yards the rest of the half.
Lions rally to defeat Jaguars
Matthew Stafford completed 11 of 15 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Detroit Lions beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 22-17, in a preseason game.
The Lions (2-1) trailed most of the night, but rookie Zach Zenner’s three-yard touchdown run with 1:41 remaining was the winner. Detroit played without star receiver Calvin Johnson for the third consecutive game, but Stafford carved up Jacksonville’s secondary in a half of work. Stafford threw a perfect deep ball to Golden Tate for a 62-yarder in the second quarter and then hooked up with Corey Fuller for a 4-yard score.
Zenner had a 41-yard scamper that set up Fuller’s score. He finished with 85 yards on eight carries.
Blake Bortles was the story again for Jacksonville (1-2). He completed 20 of 29 passes for 245 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 38 yards, including two third-down scrambles that kept scoring drives alive.
The felony charge against Tennessee Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter has been reduced to a misdemeanor count of assault and battery.
Hunter had been facing a felony charge of malicious wounding that stemmed from a late-night flight at the Sandbar Raw Bar in Virginia Beach’s oceanfront resort area during the July 4 weekend, according to Virginia Beach, Va., police.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney office issued a release Friday saying that “based upon subsequent interviews with witnesses, it is the Commonwealth’s position that the evidence better supports the charge of assault and battery.”
The case had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday. In its statement, the Commonwealth’s Attorney office said the case instead would go to trial on this misdemeanor charge Tuesday.
Dallas offensive lineman R.J. Dill, a third-year player who hasn’t appeared in an NFL game, has been suspended four games for violating the league’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs.