Patriots week one report card nearly a 4.0
Did anyone really expect the Patriots to lose week one to the Titans? Not to say that it wasn’t a solid win overall, but it’s no surprise that it came fairly easy for Tom Brady and company. Second-year running back Stevan Ridley sparked the offensive attack as rookies Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones teamed up on the defensive side of the ball to force a fumble returned for a touchdown. The rest of the Patriots defense held tough as well, holding Chris Johnson to only four yards rushing on 11 carries. It is only week one of the NFL season, but this game does give hope to Patriots fans that the defense may have improved enough to make yet another Super Bowl run.
Tom Brady played as well as one would expect in a ninth straight season opening win. Sunday marked his 33rd consecutive game with at least one touchdown pass, throwing for two against Tennessee. Although it was only week one, Brady already looked poised for another great season.
Run Ridley, run! Boy did Stevan Ridley run all over the Titans defense in week one. He looked like a five-year veteran as he ran for his first 100-yard rush game. Even when the Titans threatened a comeback, Ridley helped jump-start the Patriots offense in the second half on a key drive where he ran for 35 yards and a touchdown. He gives the Patriots hope that they just might have a run game this season. The only question is, can he duplicate this performance next week against the Cardinals?
Patriots wide receivers Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman had only 9 catches and 90 receiving yards combined of Brady’s 236. That being said, the wide receivers were not targeted a lot as the Patriots ran the ball more than they threw it on Sunday. Lloyd did have an opportunity to start the scoring off for the Patriots on their first drive but misjudged a long pass from Brady that led to an incompletion. Lloyd did go on to run great routes proving his pure athleticism and ability to be a deep threat. He led all receivers on the day with 69 receiving yards.
Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez received the majority of Brady’s passes as they continue to be the Patriots biggest offensive threat. Combined they caught 12 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Together they might be the most troublesome matchup that any NFL defense will face this season.
Considering the many questions surrounding the Patriots offensive line coming into this season, they played extremely well. Brady was only sacked once and hit only three times all game. Nate Solder made the only mistake, allowing Kamerion Wimbley by him to hit Brady hard. Despite the one mistake, the line allowed for Ridley to run wild against the Titans defense as Patriots running backs combined for 162 yards on the ground. Let’s put it this way, if the offensive line plays this well for Brady all season long, opposing defenses should be more than a little nervous.
What more could you ask of a young defensive line against one of the top running backs in the NFL? Pro-bowl back Chris Johnson was frustrated enough to nearly throw his helmet on the sidelines as he was stuffed all day long by a suffocating Patriots run defense. He ran for four yards on 11 carries. Ouch! Rookie Chandler Jones helped come up with the biggest play of the game forcing Jake Locker to fumble the ball close to his own end zone. The only times Locker looked comfortable were the beginning drives of each half.
Veteran linebacker Jerod Mayo led the defense with nine tackles and four assists. Rookie Dont’a Hightower was in the right place at the right time in the second quarter. He picked up Jones’ forced fumble on Locker and ran it in for a touchdown that turned out to be the play of the game. It will certainly be interesting to see what Hightower and Jones can combined to do for the rest of their rookie season.
The first mediocre grade of the week goes to the Patriots defensive backs. Despite the one interception by rookie Tavon Wilson, the defensive backs did not play all that well. When Locker felt comfortable and had time to throw, the Titans marched down the field at ease at the beginning of the game and the second half. It almost looked like a horrifying flashback of last years defense. Again, it is only one game, but this might be the one area that makes all Patriots fans nervous.
Overall, the Patriots special teams unit had a solid week. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski made two field goals and even contributed a nice tackle on a Titans kick return. The only downside was when Julian Edelman refused to call a fair catch on a punt return. Fortunately for him, the Titans defender got too close and a penalty was called after Edelman could not catch the ball cleanly.
As usual, coach Bill Belichick prepared the team for another season opening win. It’s to no surprise the Patriots didn’t have any turnovers and looked almost flawless on both sides of the ball. The defense was prepared to stop Chris Johnson and confuse Locker enough to force him to turn the ball over.
Overall Grade: A
If the Patriots can play this well on the road to start the season, who knows what’s in store for the Arizona Cardinals in Foxboro for week two?