The Tennessee Titans were supposed to provide more of a test for the New England Patriots, but a 34-10 victory shows that it wasn’t so. It’s time to give some grades to the Pats pass offense, run offense, pass defense, and run defense.
Passing Attack A-
Tom Brady was his usual self going 23-31 with two touchdowns, no picks, and an average of 7.6 yards per attempt. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez ate the Titans defense alive, with both players combining for 12 catches (13 targets) for 119 yards and a touchdown apiece. Brandon Lloyd shook off a drop (more of a miscue than a terrible play from Lloyd, he stopped short) early in the game that would have been a sure touchdown by looking terrific during the rest of the game with five catches for 69 yards. You can just see the downfield boost this team gets with him on the field, as well as the openings he creates for the TEs.
Wes Welker was used less frequently in this game, and it will be interesting to see if this becomes a permanent occurrence after his quiet day. I’m not going to read too much into it. There were a few mistakes and drops that prevent the passing offense from receiving a higher grade, but it was definitely a good way to start the season for this bunch. I mean, the Pats just abused Michael Griffin.
Rushing Offense A+
Stevan Ridley made the people who projected a big game for him look good by rushing for 125 yards and averaging six yards per carry on the nose. The offensive line did a fine job against the Titans front seven, with Nate Solder showing off his solid run blocking ability that gets lost in the shuffle due to the knocks on his pass protection. On a side note, Solder was beat repeatedly by Kamerion Wimbley, which was expected and not out of the ordinary for a young tackle facing a solid pass rusher.
But yeah, I was really impressed with the way Ridley played, and he has the tools to be a big-time feature back now that he has become a more patient player. The interior of the offensive line looked great, and there is no way I’m dampening their day by giving them less than the best in my grade book.
Pass Defense B+
Although Jake Locker was able to finish with an 89.2 QB Rating, the Patriots pass defense played well overall and made Matt Hasselbeck look terrible when they knocked Locker out of the game. Nate Washington was able to burn the Pats D on two occasions, but those were his only two catches all game on eight targets before getting bounced out of the game as well. Jared Cook was the only consistent thorn in the Pats defense side, as Tavon Wilson looked terrific and Ras-I Dowling showed a lot of promise as well. Kyle Arrington could have done better, and Steve Gregory did struggle in his Pats regular season debut. But still, Devin McCourty looked above-average and the Pats were able to hold the Titans passing offense to 264 yards. That equals a win in my book.
The pass rush was also solid, with Chandler Jones having a magnificent regular season debut by getting consistent pressure on Locker. This culminated in a big strip sack that led to fellow rookie Dont’a Hightower scooping up the ball to paydirt. What makes his performance even more special is that the guy he was going up against, Michael Roos, is a solid veteran in this league. Jermaine Cunningham also got some pressure on Locker.
Run Defense A+
I don’t think anyone can overstate the job that the Patriots did against Chris Johnson. Holding an elite running back to 4 yards on 11 carries is just insane. I mean, it’s not every day you see a team’s starting running back average 0.4 yards per carry. Especially when said running back ran for 2,000 yards just two seasons ago.
The Titans interior offensive line is terrible, and they showed their colors in this one with Vince Wilfork swallowing up blockers like Joey Chesnut in Coney Island. It was ridiculous watching the Pats redirect run after run, and the linebackers made sure Johnson wouldn’t get a run over five yards. I still can’t get the number 0.4 out of my head. That’s called true dominance.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.