FINAL: Patriots defeat Panthers, 20-10, at Gillette Stadium.

Mac Jones completed a 45-yard pass to set up a touchdown in his first preseason game, Tristian Vizcaino hit a 51-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 20-10 in a preseason game Friday evening.

On a night when the Panthers put their quarterback competition between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold on hold, New England played Jones for three series. He completed 4 of 8 passes for 61 yards, had a 7-yard scramble and was sacked once.

Patriots backup Brian Hoyer played a series in the second quarter before handing it off to rookie Bailey Zappe for the rest of the game.

Zappe was 16 of 25 for 173 yards and threw an interception to Tae Hayes that was returned 50 yards for a touchdown.

Carolina Panthers cornerback Tae Hayes runs into the end zone for a touchdown on an interception during the second half of the team’s preseason NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule, center, talks with lineman Boris Cheek (41) during the first half of the team’s preseason NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo) /Charles Krupa)

Carolina Panthers safety Sean Chandler, left, tackles New England Patriots wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Carolina Panthers tight end Tommy Tremble (82) is tackled by New England Patriots defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) goes on the field in front of Carolina Panthers cornerback Tae Hayes (32) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

New England Patriots wide receiver Ty Montgomery (14) spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown in the first half of the team’s preseason NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Carolina Panthers running back Chuba Hubbard (30) tries to get away from New England Patriots linebacker Raekwon McMillan during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) warms up prior to a preseason NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones warms up for the team’s preseason NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Carolina Panthers quarterback PJ Walker throws a pass against the New England Patriots in the first half of a preseason NFL football game Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) warms up prior to a preseason NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule on the field prior to a preseason NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

New England Patriots cheerleaders prior to a preseason NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Carolina Panthers quarterback PJ Walker (11) passes to running back D’Onta Foreman (33) during the first half of the team’s preseason NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Lil’Jordan Humphrey had five catches for 71 yards. Nelson Agholor had two catches for 52 yards and Sam Roberts added a late fumble recovery for a touchdown.

After suggesting he could decide on his starting quarterback as early as this week, Panthers coach Matt Rhule benched both Mayfield and Darnold. Third string P.J. Walker started and switched quarters with rookie Matt Corral.

READ MORE: Panthers, Patriots battle for second straight day as tempers flare in Foxboro

Walker was 8 of 15 for 107 yards and two interceptions. Corral finished 9 of 15 for 58 yards.

Rhule also gave most of Carolina’s projected starters an off night. There were some exceptions, including first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu. He started at left tackle after Rhule declared him the starter earlier this week.

The man Ekwonu missed out on, Brady Christensen in the third round in 2021, got the nod at left guard, where he now competes with Michael Jordan.

The Patriots initially struggled to find traction offensively with most of their starters on the field for the first time after being rested during last week’s exhibition opener. They went three-and-out on their first two series, with Jones failing twice on third down.

Jones finally got things going on their third possession, picking up a pair of first downs before connecting with Agholor on a 45-yard pass down the sideline to get into the red zone.

New England scored the game’s first touchdown three plays later on a 2-yard run by Ty Montgomery that made it 7–3.

Patriots assistant Matt Patricia remained the play-caller for all three quarterbacks throughout the first half, unlike last week when he shared the duties with Joe Judge.

New England’s first-team defense was mostly solid in limited action, forcing a three-and-out to open the game and then thwarting Carolina’s second drive with a pair of sacks by Deatrich Wise Jr. and Josh Uche.

Safety Joshua Bledsoe entered the mix in the second quarter when he forced and recovered a fumble. The play was originally ruled an incomplete pass from Corral to Stephen Sullivan before coach Bill Belichick challenged and it was overturned on review.

Shaun Wade added an interception in the third quarter and picked off a pass from Walker.

Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule has been adamant for weeks that he would not rush to announce a winner in the ongoing quarterback competition between Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield.

That hasn’t changed, even with his team just days after taking the field for their second exhibition game, a point Rhule had previously indicated he wanted to see the situation resolved.

Rhule said Wednesday that when is not as important as being confident he has gathered all the information he needs.

“I think what I’ve said all along is we wanted to at least get to this point where we know when we know,” Rhule said after the Panthers’ second joint practice with New England.

“So it could be any time. It could be two more weeks from now. It could be now. … I’m not saying it’s two weeks from now. I’m just saying we’re just making sure that we are thorough.”

Mayfield and Darnold have split reps with the first team over the past two days, with Mayfield appearing to have better overall command of the offense and success in 11-on-11 periods against New England’s defense.

But Darnold has shown glimpses of what led the New York Jets to select him third overall in the 2018 draft, including turning a broken play into a TD pass to DJ Moore in the back of the end zone under two- minutes of drilling work on Wednesday.

“We’re both doing everything we can to win the job,” Darnold said. “I thought I improved a ton. I thought our whole team improved a ton with their defense and the way they fly around.”

Neither quarterback has had a full count of playmakers this week, with running back Christian McCaffrey on a play boundary and receivers Robbie Anderson and Terrace Marshall Jr. also limited.

Still, Rhule has been impressed by what he has seen.

“I think both guys executed a ton,” he said. “Not a ton of interceptions, but has protected the ball well. The key situations — the low (red zone) and the two minutes — we’ve kind of gotten what we need to do. So I think a lot of good things.”

Rhule said he plans to play mostly his second- and third-teamers in Friday’s exhibition game with New England, though he did not say who would start at quarterback.

Mayfield said he feels as comfortable with the playbook as he has since arriving from Cleveland via trade on July 6.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t been worried about when the decision is going to be made or any of that timeline-wise,” Mayfield said. “I just try to put my head down and just take it one day at a time. And that has been the mindset for both Sam and I. How can we just play the best ball at the end of camp and just handle it correctly.

“Organizations go as their QB rooms go, and as long as we lead correctly and we support each other, good things will happen.”

For now, Rhule said they plan to stick with the plan they laid out prior to training camp.

“We don’t whistle it,” he said. “We have a really good plan and I just don’t feel free to share it out of respect for the guys.”

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