By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots got off to a great start in the 2012 NFL season opener by beating the Tennessee Titans by the convincing score of 34-13 on Sunday in Nashville.
Based on observations of the game, here are some of the top and not so great performances of the game.
2012 Draft Class- Top three draft picks Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Tavon Wilson all made impact plays on Sunday. On a defense in search of playmakers after 2011, all made big steps in their baptism of fire facing NFL competition for the first time in a regular season game.
Jones burst around the edge and strip-sacked Jake Locker where Hightower picked up the fumble and returned it for a touchdown. Earlier in the game, Wilson picked off a deflected pass in the endzone. A great start for all three.
Stevan Ridley- The 2nd year RB from LSU had a career day running the ball for the Patriots, gaining 125 on 21 carries. He provided a great burst coming through the line. His strong showing enabled the Patriots to have the balance on offense that they’ve been searching for.
Vince Wilfork- The big man was immovable at the point of attack all game for the Patriots. His play set the tone for the entire front seven, limiting Tennessee to only 20 yards rushing and Chris Johnson (11 carries for 4 yards) to his lowest total in his NFL career.
**Honorable Mention** The Patriots coaching staff did a magnificent job of both putting together an offensive and defensive game plan that the players executed to a tee and also preparing the team to play. There were few if any mental lapses on the field and as a whole, the Patriots were the far more ready team to play on Sunday.
Zoltan Mesko- It’s not very often, that you see Mesko on here, but the “Most Interesting Man in the NFL” didn’t have a typical performance. He followed a 28 yard punt with another into the end zone for a touchback, where he only had three last season.
Wes Welker- Welker was far from his dominant self on Sunday, catching 3 passes for only 14 yards. Welker wasn’t targeted much at all and worse….he split time with Julian Edelman only playing in about 2/3 of the snaps. Last year he was on the field for nearly 90 percent of the Patriots offensive plays.
Dan Connolly- The versatile G/C/KR/FB suffered a concussion on a running play while lining up as a short yardage fullback. Connolly has suffered from concussion prior and it is not known how long he will be out. That’s bad news for an offensive line that is already short on depth.