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BOSTON (CBS) – There isn’t much to complain about in New England’s 34-13 season opening win over the Tennessee Titans, as the Patriots rolled to their ninth straight season opening win.
Here are the 4 Ups and 4 Downs from the game.
Ridley showed he is ready to take over as the premiere back for New England – in a big way. Ridley ran for 125 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. He had six carries for 10-yards or more (14, 17, 15, 15, 14, 16) and a 20-yard reception as well.
His performance helped open up the play-action throughout the game, and he could be primed for a big year as the premiere back.
The All Pro tight end didn’t light up the stat sheet like he normally does, but made contributions on all fronts. He caught all six passes that went his way, finishing with 60 yards and a touchdown. He was a beast in the blocking game, leading to many of Ridley’s long runs.
Chris Johnson managed just four rushing yards on 11 carries – a career low. The Patriots did a great job getting multiple players to the explosive back, and made sure he was a non-factor throughout the game.
Rookies Making Noise
First-rounders Chandler Jones and Don’t’a Hightower teamed up for a second quarter defensive touchdown, with Jones stripping Jake Locker and Hightower picking up the fumble and taking it in for the score.
“That was a huge play in the game, obviously,” head coach Bill Belichick said following the win. “Those seven-point swings defensive scores, they’re always enormous plays in the National Football League. It’s so tight and so competitive, when you get bonus points like that it usually tips the scales.”
Both Jones and Hightower finished the game with five tackles.
Fellow rookie Tavon Wilson also made some noise, with two pass deflection and an interception off a tipped pass.
Secondary Concerns Remain
The Patriots pass defense looked better, but were still vulnerable at times. Locker was having a very good game before leaving due to injury, tossing for 229 yards and converting on a number of third downs.
Devin McCourty’s struggles continue, as the third-year corner was beat on a couple big plays and he missed a chance at an interception — letting the ball fall incomplete.
Early Game Drops
The Patriots had a chance to take a lead early after the Titans went up 3-0, but squandered it thanks to a pair of drops on their first drive. The first came on a fake end-around, when Brandon Lloyd broke his stride downfield. He slowed up a bit, and Brady’s pass sailed over his head instead of resulting in a wide-open touchdown reception. Overall, Lloyd looked impressive though in his New England debut, leading the way with 69 yards on five receptions.
On the next play – a third-and-eight – Brady went to Welker across the middle, but it hit off the receiver’s facemask and the Pats were forced to punt. Welker was relatively quite on the afternoon, with just three receptions for 14 yards on five targets.
Brady Goes Down
Sure Brady was only one sacked once, but it was a scary looking one. Kamerion Wimbley made it look too easy getting around Nate Solder, who had his moments during the game, and finished his big hit with a knee to Brady’s face.
Brady said it was the only big hit he took in the game, and the offensive line played a big part in Ridley’s career day. One point of concern is that Dan Connelly had to leave the game in the fourth quarter, so we’ll have to keep an eye on his status with the such little depth on the O-Line.
Following the hit, the Pats’ QB had to sport a nose bandage, and his whole nose was bandaged up in his postgame media availability. Brady said “it will be fine,” but there’s no word yet on how it will affect his next photo-shoot.
Like we said, not much to complain about. But on his first touchdown of the 2012 season, Rob Gronkowski fumbled the spike. After an offseason of spiking nearly everything, we expect better out of the tight end.
But when a TD celebration ends up in the “4 Downs” section, it just shows how little went wrong for the Patriots.