Ridley sparks Patriots’ rout of Titans
New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley ran coolly through the Tennessee Titans’ defense Sunday afternoon. The second-year back posted more total yards on offense than Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Wes Welker combined. He appeared to do so at ease as the Titans’ defense could find no answer for him.
Ridley sparked a key third quarter drive just when the Titans seemed to have a comeback in mind. He had two 15-yard runs on the drive as he continued to allude the Tennessee defense. He capped it off with a one-yard touchdown run. The score put the Patriots up 28-10 at the time, and they did not look back.
As Ridley took off for 125 yards on the ground, the Patriots’ defense stood strong in the red zone. The defense forced two turnovers against Titans new starting quarterback Jake Locker, one which was a fumble returned for a touchdown by Patriots newcomer and linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Locker injured his left shoulder trying to make a tackle on a Patrick Chung interception at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The call was eventually overturned, but it sidelined the young quarterback out for the rest of the game.
The Patriots had not lost a season opener in eight years. Ridley made sure they would keep that streak alive as the Patriots marched on to victory 34-13 Sunday afternoon in Nashville, Tennessee. The Patriots out-gained the Titans 390-284 in total yards and won the turnover battle as they typically do against their opponents.
The game had somewhat of an unsettling start for the Patriots after the Titans easily marched down the field and took a 3-0 lead on a Rob Bironas field goal. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, the Patriot’ big offseason free agent signing, then misjudged a sure touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots were forced to punt with the defense and star wide receiver already in some question.
With a little hiccup to start the season, the Patriots quickly remembered that they don’t lose season openers.
The new look defense quickly rebounded and refused to let Titans star running back Chris Johnson do anything offensively at all for the rest of the game. The defensive line suffocated the Titans anytime they tried to run the ball, and Johnson was held to a measly four total yards in 11 tries on the ground.
Once the Patriots got the ball back for their second drive, the Tennessee defense quickly crumbled and never again found an answer for the high-powered Patriots offense.
Patriots tight ends Gronkowski and Hernandez continued to prove that they are well worth the contracts they each received during the offseason. They had almost identical games as they each caught six passes and each had one touchdown grab. The two tight ends combined for 119 of Brady’s 236 total passing yards.
The only lick the Titans could put on Brady came in the second quarter after he was sacked by Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley. The New England quarterback took a foot to the face causing a bloody nose. He was forced to wear a band aid for the rest of the game, but that was the last time the Tennessee defense put any real pressure on Brady.
Although they faced an inexperienced quarterback in Locker, the young New England defense already looks much improved from last season. Despite going to the Super Bowl last year, the Patriots’ defense was historically bad. Last year they allowed a dreadful 411 yards per game on defense, making today’s 284 total yards significantly better.
Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones made an immediate impact after sacking and a forcing the fumble that was returned for a touchdown by fellow first round draft pick Hightower. Veteran linebacker Jerod Mayo and cornerback Devin McCourty had nine and five tackles respectively as the Tennessee offense had no response to the New England defense.
The defending AFC Champion Patriots were supposed to win this game against the Titans. However, this game does answer an important question about the Patriots’ defense early on. This New England defense is improved with proof that it has already had a better game than all of last season, at least statistically speaking.
Ridley proved this afternoon that he can carry the bulk of the Patriots’ running game this season even with the loss of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He proved that this high-powered New England offense can be strong on the ground. More importantly for the Arizona Cardinals, he proved that they have one more thing to worry about against the Patriots next weekend.