NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 9: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots points to a blocking assignment against the Tennessee Titans during their season opener at LP Field on September 8, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
If the worst things you can say about an opening-week performance are that the handsome, future Hall of Fame quarterback got a nosebleed and the big-play tight end forgot how to properly celebrate a touchdown catch, things are going pretty well.
The Patriots made easy work of the Titans on Sunday, 34-13, and while Tom Brady was his usual efficient self (23 of 31 for 236 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs), there were plenty of new faces that made big contributions. Last year's second-round pick, running back Stevan Ridley, averaged a whopping 10.4 yards per carry and by the time it was over had 125 rushing yards and a touchdown.
"I think it's a little bit better than I envisioned," Ridley said afterward via ESPNBoston.com. "Twenty-one carries, that's a higher number than what I was expecting. …
"The coaches just did an exceptional job of finding the ones that were doing well and they just kept calling them until they stopped them," Ridley explained. "The offensive line was just blocking and getting on people. There was bodies on bodies and I just had to hit my creases and run. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary. I was just the player that I was and out there playing ball."
Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, meanwhile, finally gives Brady the deep threat that Chad Johnson failed to do last season. Lloyd, who played for Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Denver and St. Louis, had five catches for a team-high 69 yards. Those numbers would've been better but Lloyd had a Johnson-ian moment when he dropped a deep pass. Brady sounded unconcerned after the game.
"I'm pretty confident we won't miss another one of those all season," he said during his weekly radio spot on WEEI. "It was a great play call, they really sold the reverse that we ran to Wes and we just didn't connect. At the end of the day, we got to connect, that's the point. And in close games we're not going to be able to miss those, but I would be hard pressed to think that we're going to miss another one of those."
For some perspective on just how bad Johnson was a year ago, Lloyd's five receptions is a third of Johnson's 2011 total and his 69 yards is a quarter of Johnson's 276-yard total.
Oh, and then there were the rookie first-rounders. The Achille's heel of last season's Pats: a dreadful defense. Coach Bill Belichick addressed that in April by using the team's two first-rounders on defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Early in the second quarter, the former strip-sacked Titans quarterback Jake Locker and the latter scooped up the fumble and returned it for a touchdown. As far as first impressions go, it doesn't get much better than that.