Originally written September 10, 2012 on The Sports Headquarters:
NEW ENGLAND (34) d TENNESSEE (13) The Headline: Patriots young guns fire as they lead the team to a convincing week 1 win. The Story: After struggling for the majority of last season, the Patriots defense came out and made a statement in this game with their three top draft picks coming out and giving Jake Locker a tough debut as the Titans starting quarterback. Second round pick Tavon Wilson came up with an interception early on in the second quarter, something that will help ease the doubts of those who questioned Belichick’s decision to take him in the second round. On the Titans next possession first round pick Chandler Jones came off the edge and sacked Jake Locker swatting the ball out of his hand. There to pick the ball up was the guy taken four spots later in Dont’a Hightower and he ran it in for his first NFL touchdown. Overall it was part of an encouraging defensive performance for the Patriots who only allowed 284 total yards of offense which was better than their efforts last season. On the other side of the ball Tom Brady had a relatively pedestrian day by his lofty standards throwing for 236 yards, two touchdowns and no picks despite taking a shot to the nose on the one time he was sacked. The tight ends were once again his preferred targets as they combined for 12 catches and 119 yards to lead the team. For the Titans they decided that, given the limited success of their running game and the fact the Patriots pass defense sucked last year they would throw the ball around as they chased the game. Balance was not an option as the Titans fell behind early and needed to respond with some fast scores which never came as they struggled to move the ball after an impressive opening drive that stalled in the red zone. Locker was forced to exit the game early in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury and he was kept out as a precaution with the game beyond reach by that stage. Key Stat: Chris Johnson: 11 carries, 4 yards. Bit of a slow start for Johnson as he looks for a rebound season. Key Play: Dont’a Hightower 6 yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. The two first round picks for the Patriots made their first impact plays in the NFL at the same time as Chandler Jones came off the right side, sacked Jake Locker and forced a fumble. Right there to pick the ball up was Hightower who was able to lumber into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown. Man of the Match: Steven Ridley 21 carries, 125 yards, 1TD rushing. 2 catches, 27 yards. In his first chance to be the lead back for New England, second year player Steven Ridley took charge of the offense and produced his best game as a pro. With fellow 2011 draftee Shane Vereen sidelined due to injury (something Pats fans will have to get used to saying this year) Ridley came in and showed decisiveness and burst when attacking the line leading to some big gains including runs of 17 yards, 15 yards, 17 yards and a 20 yard catch too. In the race to replace the departed BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ridley made a great case to be the lead back for the future, now he will have to back it up next week against the Cardinals.
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