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Patriots-Titans Live Blog: Pats Win 2012 Opener 34-13

By Matthew Geagan, CBSBoston
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Chandler Jones (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Chandler Jones (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

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New England Patriots

BOSTON (CBS) – The 2012 New England Patriots season gets underway this afternoon in Tennessee, as the Patriots take on the Titans. Stick with CBSBostonsports.com for all the updates throughout the game, and join the conversation in the comments section!

Final – Patriots 34-13: The Patriots have some work, but overall their 2012 premiere is a very pleasing one.

Tom Brady was Tom Brady, going 23-for-31 for 236 yards and two touchdowns for a 117.1 QB Rating. There are still some concerns about the offensive line, as Brady went down hard in the second quarter and suffered a cut on his nose, but overall they did a pretty decent job protecting the franchise QB.

Read: Patriots-Titans Recap

Brady did his usual thing of spreading the ball around, with Gronk and Hernandez logging six catches each and Brandon Lloyd debuting with five for 69 yards. Both tight ends also found the end zone. Wes Welker had just three catches for 14 yards on five targets.

Running back Stevan Ridley stole the show with 125 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Overall, the defense played well. They got some pressure on Jake Locker, and held Chris Johnson to just four yards on 11 carries. Rookies Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower teamed up to score a defensive touchdown on a nice strip-sack/fumble recovery. While the secondary did struggle a bit, the Titans managed just 264 yards through the air — well below what we were used to seeing the Pats give up last season.

Stats: Patriots-Titans Box Score

So there is some work to be done, and no one should be booking February flights to New Orleans just yet, but it was a good way to start off the 2012 season for the New England Patriots.

- Here are Levan Reid’s Highs and Lows from the Fourth Quarter:

The Highs

- The Patriots first possession of  the quarter put the game away.  Tom Brady and the offense went on a 12 play drive that ate up over 5 minutes.  Stevan Ridley and Brandon Lloyd had the big plays on the drive, which ended with a 25 yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

- On the Titans second possession of the quarter they got nothing.  The defense forces them into a 4-and-out. The Pats will held Chris Johnson to just  yards on the ground, the lowest he’s had in his career.

The Lows

- Matt Hasslebeck took over for the Titans and he led them to a score.  It was a long drive that results in a field goal, as the  Pats defense let up some big plays and had some costly penalties, but played strong in the red zone.

4th Quarter, 4:15 – Patriots 31-13: Stevan Ridley is making a strong case to be the player of the game.

He started the drive off with a 20-yard run, and on a 3rd and 2 at the Tennessee 26 broke off a 16 yard run to set up the Patriots at the Titans’ 10 yard line. He’s now up to 125 yards on the ground to go with 27 more through the air.

The Patriots couldn’t convert once they got to the red zone though, but Stephen Gostkowski booted his first field goal of the season, a 25-yarder, to put New England on top 31-13.

One bad note to pass along, Dan Connelly was taken to the locker room and won’t return. We’ll keep you posted on any updates throughout the evening (because we know the Patriots are anxious to get that out).

4th Quarter, 9:18 – Patriots 28-13: People are sick of hearing it, but the Patriots defense just showed that “bend-don’t-break” mentality and kept the Titans out of the end zone.

Matt Hasselbeck started the drive 5-for-5, but on 2nd and 3rd and goal couldn’t connect with Williams and Cook, respectively. Patrick Chung had some good coverage on the third down play, and Tennessee had to settle for a 24-yard field goal instead of seven points.

The Titans went to Chris Johnson on 1st and goal, but he was brought down by Vince Wilfork. Johnson now has just four yards on five carries.

4th Quarter, 14:12 – Patriots 28-10: It’s was a scary scene following the second play of the fourth quarter. Both Jake Locker and Nate Washington were banged up on the play which ended up being an incomplete when it was all said and done.

Jake Locker went deep to Kelly Washington, who came down with the ball, but was sandwiched between Tavon Wilson and Jerod Mayo. He fumbled, and Patrick Chung picked it up, bringing it to the the Tennessee 26. Locker hurt his shoulder on the tackle, as Washington remained down on the other side of the field.

After a review, it was ruled an incomplete pass, and the Titans converted a 3rd and 1 led by Matt Hasselbeck.

End 3rd Quarter – Patriots 28-10: The Pats had a chance to get the ball back at the end of the quarter, but the Titans converted on a 3rd and 10 with a 10-yard hookup over the middle by Locker and Damian Williams. The Titans are now 4-for-10 on third downs.

That came a play after Vince Wilfork absolutely leveled Locker.

Here are Levan Reid’s Highs and Lows from the third quarter:

The Highs

-  On the Titans second possession the Patriots defense holds. They almost got an interception by Devin McCourty, but would force Tennessee to punt.

- The Pats found the end zone on their third possession of the quarter. It was the Stevan Ridley drive, as he carried the ball for 35 yards and topped it off with a one-yard plunge to the endzone.

The Lows

- Pats get the ball to start the quarter, and despite some movement, the drive ends in a punt. Alow throw from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman ends it.

-The Titans get on the board on their first possession of the quarter with some big passing play;. a 35 yarder from Jake Locker to Jared Cook, and then a 29 yard passing touchdown to Nate Washington.

- The Pats again moved the ball on their second possession of the quarter but had to punt. Not sure why, but Wes Welker does not seem to be very involved in the play calling today with only 2 catches for 6 yards so far.

3rd Quarter, 1:08 – Patriots 28-10: Stevan Ridley has his first career 100-yard game, and it’s making a huge difference for the Patriots.

He had two different big runs on the Patriots 48-yard scoring drive, breaking off runs of 15 and 14 yards en route to his trip to the end zone. Those big runs came courtesy of blocks by Gronkowski and Logan Mankins, respectively.

The second-year back now has 106 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown, with 35 yards coming on the last drive.

3rd Quarter, 3:29 – Patriots 21-10: The Titans don’t take advantage of their second chance following the McCourty drop.

On the very next play, Locker scrambled for 20 yards up the middle on a QB draw, but it came back thanks to an offensive hold. On 3rd and 15, Ras-I Dowling made a nice stop on a screen to Kendall Wright and the Titans were forced to punt.

3rd Quarter, 4:53 – Patriots 21-10: Devin McCourty’s tough day continues. Vince Wilfork applied some nice pressure on Locker, which forced him to throw it right at the Pats’ corner.

The play was originally ruled a pick, but McCourty couldn’t hold on to the ball and it went as an incomplete. We’ll see if the Titans make the Pats pay for the missed opportunity.

3rd Quarter, 5:36 – Patriots 21-10: The Patriots were looking at a third-and-out, and another punt to start the half, until Rob Gronkowski made a great shoe-string grab on 3rd and 6 for seven yards. It was one of two 3rd down catches for a 1st down he made on the drive.

But on a 3rd and 2, no one could get open and the pocket fell apart on Brady, who had to throw the ball away. Nate Solder ended up on the ground as Keyunta Dawson applied the pressure.

Aaron Hernandez grabbed his knee following a 7 yard reception, as it looked like it locked up on him. He stayed in for the next play (the Brady throw-away) but was being looked at on the sideline. The last thing the Pats need is Hernandez (or Gronk) going down.

3rd Quarter, 10:17 – Patriots 21-10: The Patriots secondary was just exposed in a big way on a quick scoring drive by the Titans.

Locker hit Cook for 35 yards over McCourty for their biggest play of the day, and a few plays later found Nate Washington for the first time for a 29 yard touchdown. McCourty was caught gambling on the play and Steve Gregory couldn’t catch up to Washington following the catch.

Chandler Jones had some good pressure on Locker before he delivered the perfect pass for the score.

The Titans covered 80 yards, all through the air, in just 1:30 to cut it to 21-10.

3rd Quarter, 11:47 – Patriots 21-3: We may see a lot of Stevan Ridley in the second half, and that’s not a bad thing. The second-year back had runs of 6 and 8, sandwiched between a pair of Aaron Hernandez receptions for 16 yards, to start the half. He’s up to 71 yards on 12 carries.

The Pats faced a 3rd and 11 at midfield, but Brady threw a little low to Julian Edelman for an incomplete and the Pats were forced to punt.

2nd Quarter Highs and Lows: Here are Levan Reid’s thoughts from the second quarter.

The Highs

- The Titans had the ball to start the quarter and the Pats defense makes a play to get the ball back.  Kyle Arrington tips the ball and Tavon Wilson falls down with the interception.  On offense, Brandon Lloyd made a spectacular 27 yard catch after the pick.

- On the Titans second possession it was more of the New England rookies coming through for a great play.  Chandler Jones with a beautiful move to sack Jake Locker, and force a fumble.  Dont’a Hightower picked up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown.  That’s the rookie sandwich.

- On the Titans third possession of the quarter the Pats defense holds again.  Jones got shaking up but it looks like he’s okay.

- The Pats second possession of the quarter was a nice long drive; 12 plays for 67 yards that ate up 5:17.  The drive ended with a two yard touchdown reception to Ron Gronkowski.

The Lows

- Pats first possession of the quarter ended with Tom Brady getting sacked and then kicked.  Kameron Wembley took Tom down on a 3rd down play and capped it off with a little kick (inadvertent) to Brady’s grill. The team is checked out QB12 on the sideline, and he returned with a nose bandage. Doubt it’s a new style that Brady will want to sport all that often.

Halftime, Patriots 21-3: Hard to complain about much with the Patriots putting up three touchdowns and holding the Titans to just a field goal in the first half.

Tom Brady has been near perfect, the tight ends have picked up where they left off, and Stevan Ridley is showing that he can be a solid starting RB in the NFL.

On defense, the Patriots have held Chris Johnson to nine yards on nine attempts, with Jake Locker picking up 11 yards on his two rushes. Locker does have 126 yards through the air, but the D forced him into a pair of turnovers — a pick by Tavon Wilson and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, caused by Chandler Jones and scored by Dont’a Hightower.

There’s still a whole half left, but those first 30 minutes were pretty good by New England.

2nd Quarter, 2:00 – Patriots 21-3: Brady rewards Gronk for all his solid blocking (he had another great block on a Ridley 8 yard run up the middle to the Tennessee 2 yard line) by going to the All Pro tight end in his favorite spot; the end zone. Brady faded to Gronk in the right corner, and he was able to make the catch and get both feet down for the score — his 28th career touchdown.

Gronk did drop the ball on the spike though, so he loses a few style points.

Brady is now 10-for-13 for 123 yards and the two scores.

The no huddle, and some trickeration, returned to the Patriots offense on the drive. Aaron Hernandez took a direct snap and ran for five yards to pick up a 1st down.

2nd Quarter 6:09 – Patriots 14-3: Brady isn’t letting his banged up nose take away from his play on the field. He returned with a bandage over his nose, and had no hesitation on a 2nd and 1 QB sneak to pick up a first down.

Prior to that, Ridley made a nice 15-yard run on 1st down, and then Brady hooked up with Lloyd on the sideline (again) to pick up 9 yards — setting up that Brady sneak.

Ridley’s run was again created by a nice block by Gronkowski. He only has one catch thus far, but is clearing out space for everyone on the field by either drawing double coverage or delivering with some solid blocking.

2nd Quarter, 11:07 – Patriots 14-3: How about this for the Patriots’ two first rounders making an immediate impact?

On 3rd and 13, Chandler Jones made a great move to get to Locker — causing the QB to fumble. Fellow first-round selection Dont’a Hightower was there to scoop up the ball and take it in six yards for the touchdown.

That’s two turnovers for the Patriots defense — both involving rookies.

2nd Quarter, 12:06 – Patriots 7-3: Brady just hit the ground hard on a sack on 3rd and 4 to end the drive. Kamerion Wimbley schooled Nate Solder and chased Brady down. Brady was a little slow to get up after getting Wimbley’s knee to the helmet. He had a little blood dripping off his nose following the hit, and was getting looked at on the sidelines.

Brandon Lloyd may have missed on his first pass from Brady, but he made the most out of his second attempt. Lloyd made a beautiful falling grab on 1st and 10, catching the ball and getting both feet in bounds, for a 27 yard reception.

2nd Quarter, 14:07 – Patriots 7-3: The Pats get their first turnover of the season, with Kyle Arrington and rookie Tavon Wilson joining forces to come up with an interception.

On a deep pass by Locker intended for Washington, Arrington tipped it — although it was really the ball hitting off his facemask — up in the air, and Wilson made a nice diving grab in the endzone for the INT. It’s nice to see the rookie make a big play and get a good confidence boost so early in the season.

We’ll see if the Patriots can take advantage of Locker’s first career interception.

1st Quarter Highs and Lows: Levan Reid checks in with the Highs and Lows.

The Highs

- Titans get the ball first and the Pats defense finally makes a stop inside the red zone.  Devin McCourty with a questionable play to knock down the ball.  The Titans have to settle for 3.  Immediately on those first plays of the game, Dont’a Hightower is showing how fast he is in this defense.

- First possession of the quarter for the Pats and Stevan Ridley had a very good break away run.  17 yards for a first down.

- Pats second possession of the quarter and they get on the board.  Rob Gronkowski with a 28 yard reception, Stevan Ridley with a 17 yard run and they close with a 23 yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Aaron Hernandez.

The Lows

- Titans get the ball first and on the Pats first big defensive third down, they falter.  3rd and 7 and the Titans pick up 17 on a pass to Kendall Wright. The defensive let down continues.  4th and 1 and the Titans pick up 24.  Jake Locker to Nate Washington.  He beats Kyle Arrington.

- Pats first possession of the quarter and they miss on a big play.  Tom Brady with a perfect pass to Brandon Lloyd and he turns around in his stride and drops the ball and also later in the possession Wes Welker drops a third down play.  Pats have to punt the ball.

- 2nd possession of the quarter for the Titans and the Pats defense holds.  3 and out.  Defense looks very good.  Chandler Jones was dominant on these set of downs.

End of 1st Quarter, Patriots 7-3: The defense nearly had another three-and-out, but gave up 19-yard completion to tight end Jared Cook on 3rd and 6. It was a risky pass by Locker over the middle, but Cook came down with it.

The Patriots had issues on third down last season, so it doesn’t look like too much has changed in the early goings of 2012.

1st Quarter, 1:58 -Patriots 7-3: The Patriots are having some early success with the play action. First Brady hit a wide open Gronkowski for 28 yards on a 2nd and 10, and then went to his other tight end Aaron Hernandez for a 23-yard touchdown a few plays later. Brady bought some time for himself, and hit the open Hernandez for his 301st career touchdown to move past John Elway for 5th all-time.

The play action is having so much success thanks to some great running by Stevan Ridley. He broke a 17 yard run between the two play action plays, and has 36 yards on six carries so far.

1st Quarter, 4:05 – Titans 3-0: More solid rush D from the Patriots. They stuff Chris Johnson for a loss on 1st down, and then held him to just two yards on 2nd and 13. Titans threw the ball on 3rd down, but the Pats keep them from getting the first with a pass over the middle — 8 yards to running back Jamie Harper — and the Titans go three-and-out.

1st Quarter, 6:20 – Titans 3-0: Tom Brady hit Aaron Hernandez for his first completion of the season, with Hernandez breaking a pair of tackles to pick up nine yards. After Stevan Ridley was hit in the backfield for no gain, he got a great block by Rob Gronkowski and picked up 17 yards and the New England’s first first down of the season.

On the next play, the Pats faked an end-around, and Brady nearly hit a wide open Lloyd down field for a sure touchdown. But Lloyd slowed up in stride and the pass was just over his fingertips. Two plays later on 3rd and 8, Brady went to Welker over the middle, but the pass hit him in the helmet and dropped for an incomplete, forcing New England to punt.

The Pats had a great chance to put up 7 points, and then keep the drive alive, but the receivers couldn’t come through. Let’s see how they bounce back as the game progresses.

1st Quarter, 8:43 – Titans 3-0: The Titans won the coin toss and elected to receive. Titans’ QB Jake Locker scrambled on his first snap as an NFL starter and picked up a couple of yards. After stuffing Chris Johnson on second down, the Patriots gave up a third down conversion, a 17-yard reception to Kendall Wright for a first down.

The Titans picked up another huge conversion on 4th and Inches, with Locker hitting Nate Washington for 24 yards down the left side over Kyle Arrington. This came after Jerod Mayo hit Johnson in the backfield to set up the 4th down.

The Patriots got a little lucky on the drive though. They forced Tennesse into a 3rd and 7 on the New England 10, when Devin McCourty deflected a Locker pass to Damian Williams in the end zone. McCourty never turned around before making a play, and could have easily been flagged with pass interference. But the replacement refs swallowed their whistle, and the Titans had to settle for a 28-yard field goal.

Ras-I Dowling was whistled for PI earlier on the drive, and Locker had no problem finding his targets on the drive going 4-for-5 for 46 yards. While the run defense looked good, the secondary remains questionable.

Pregame – 12:40 p.m.: WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid delivers a few tidbits to chew on before the game.

- The NFL average age for players is 26.7 years old, and the Pats have 35 players on the roster that are younger than that — leading the league. Patriots president Jonathan Kraft touched on that subject on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Patriots Preview with Gary Tanguay and Andy Gresh.

“Our goal is, if you can be competitive with a group that is that young, you’re going to have a better chance at sustaining it over the longer period of time,” said Kraft. “That’s always what it’s about for us and when we look at things, that’s whats really driven us on the football side of things.”

Kraft also touched on the Brian Waters situation. He didn’t have much to add in the reported “contract dispute,” but said they appreciate all that Waters did for the Pats last season.

He added they did not go into training camp expecting the veteran lineman,  instead focusing on the players on hand.

“When a guy is a veteran he understands what everything is about. I don’t know all the different communications that may or may not have done on between him and Bill (Belichick). He knows what it means to come in and play, and Bill understands the psychology of players like that,” said Kraft. “We went about Training Camp assuming we were playing with the players who were there. Our roster will change a bunch during the regular season, but your always in the moment playing, performing with the resources you have at that time.”

- The air at LP field is good for kicking.  Stephen Gostkowski has nailed a number of 50 yard plus field goals in pregame warm ups.  The ball is exploding off of his foot.

- Also in pregame warmups, it looks like Ryan Wendell is at center, Dan Connolly is at right guard and Sebastian Vollmer is at right tackle.

Tune in to Patriots-Titans at 1p.m. Sunday afternoon on both WBZ-TV and 98.5 The Sports Hub! Tune in after the game for full postgame coverage on 98.5 and on Patriots Fifth Quarter over on MyTV-38!

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