Bedard: The defense is now the heart and soul of these Patriots

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Adam Richins For BSJ

FOXBOROUGH — This is sacrilege to say in these parts, especially after a meaningless third preseason game, but it might be time for Tom Brady to embrace the idea of being a supporting actor instead of a leading man.

His side of the ball is no longer paying the freight for the longest-running success story in NFL history.

These Patriots ... they run on defense now. The offense is a bit player.

No, this didn't just start to happen on Thursday night in the Patriots' 10-3 victory over the Panthers.

It certainly didn't hurt. The Panthers' offensive starters played most of the first half. Cam Newton left with a sprained ankle — inflicted on a Patriot sack — but he had three full series. And went nowhere. Repeatedly.

Forget midfield — the Panthers didn't even cross their own 35-yard line in the first half. They ran 17 plays and totaled 29 yards (1.7 average). They were 0-for-5 on third downs. Newton and Kyle Allen combined for 41 passing yards, but were sacked three times and lost 26. They didn't have a play over 13 yards until there was 6:32 left in the third quarter.

"Offensively, we were not very good," said Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. "We didn’t check any of our boxes as far as the third preseason game goes."

Oh, but the Patriots' defense did. And it was awesome.