FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — OK, now you can worry.

The New England Patriots defense was once again shredded in Sunday’s 33-30 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium.

Shredded to the tune of 444 yards of total offense, 316 passing yards and three touchdown passes by Cam Newton, 104 receiving yards by an often-wide-open Kelvin Benjamin.

Shredded by a team that entered the game ranked 28th among the NFL’s 32 teams in total offense, ranked 30th in passing offense, ranked 29th in points scored (15).

The Panthers more than doubled their point average! Shredded.

“It’s hard, man,” said safety Devin McCourty, when asked to assess what happened on Sunday. “It’s very uncharacteristic. But … It’s happened four games in a row. It’s hard to pinpoint (the problems) but a game like today is tough. Anybody watching knows if we do anything defensively we have a great chance to win this game so I don’t know.

“It’s just bad, bad football.”

Yes it is. And if this isn’t figured out quickly, the Patriots are going to be in trouble.

They might already be. They’re now 2-2 (OK, twice before, in 2003 and 2014, they’ve been 2-2 and won the Super Bowl) with a game at Tampa Bay on Thursday night.

The Buccaneers are no offensive powerhouse, but then neither were the Panthers coming in. And this isn’t a matter of a superior team exposing another team’s weakness.

This is a matter of a defense breaking down completely. Carolina receivers were routinely left wide open throughout the game – much to the glee of their fantasy football owners.

Benjamin caught passes of 43 and 39 yards – with nary a Patriot defender near him when he received the ball.

Fozzy Whittaker took a screen pass from Newton 28 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown in the second quarter with every Patriot defender on the other side of the field. They bit the Carolina fake when Christian McCaffrey went in motion to the right.

“It was bad play, just a bad play,” said McCourty, stressing that every team in the NFL uses motion in its offense. “It was a bad play. It had to look like a couple idiots out there. Just a bad play.”

Just one of many.

What of Newton’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Devin Funchess with 26 seconds left in the second quarter that gave the Panthers a 17-13 lead? Funchess was given a free release at the line of scrimmage by cornerback Stephon Gilmore and no one covered him. He was alone in the end zone.

Gilmore, of course, is the new guy, the high-priced free agent signed away from the Buffalo Bills. He had a bad day.

He was twice penalized for a hands-to-the-face penalty in the second half, that not only costs five yards but comes with an automatic first down. The second one was especially costly since it came on Carolina’s game-winning drive with 2:13 remaining and on a play in which rookie Deatrich Wise, Jr., had sacked Newton on third down – apparently leading to a punt that would give the Patriots the ball with a chance to win.

Instead, Carolina had a first down. Newton calmly drove the Panthers down – aided by a five-yard holding penalty on Patrick Chung that gave the Panthers another first down at the New England 39. That set up Graham Gano’s game-winning 48-yard field goal on the game’s final play.

Gilmore appeared to take the loss extremely hard. But McCourty said it’s ridiculous to blame him. It’s football, he said. It’s 11 guys working as one unit. Right now no one is playing well.

“It’s bad,” said McCourty. “We’re letting the team down. It doesn’t matter what we do right now – offensively, special teams – if we can’t play somewhat a decent defense. It’s going to be hard to win games. Our offense played a great game last week and bailed us out. Played great again this week and we let the team down.

“I wish I could tell you if we did this better, that better, we’d be all right but we’re not playing well at all.”

Communication, especially in the secondary, appears to be an issue. Gilmore said as much. “We’ve got to get better on communication,” he said. “I’ve got to get better on communication. I’ve got to get better on communication right now.”

But McCourty said it’s not that simple. These players have been together long enough – since last April, through training camp and a preseason schedule – that they should not be this bad. They practice hard. They do things right in practice.

“It’s just not showing up on Sunday,” said McCourty.

With such a quick turnover for a Thursday night game, McCourty was asked if it would be tough to fix the defensive problems in such a short time.

“I hope not,” he said.

We’ll see. Time’s running out on New England’s defense.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH