Player of the Game: Running back Stevan Ridley – 21 carries, 125 yards, 1 touchdown
In their first game since their loss in Super Bowl, the Patriots came out on fire. The passing game showed how it has changed over the offseason and they ran the ball when they needed to and excelled at it. Though Tom Brady threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns, the real star of the offense was second-year running back Stevan Ridley. Whether it was a short-yardage situation or a typical run, Ridley showed that he is the clear number one running back on this team. He outplayed his running back counter-part Chris Johnson badly.
Alongside the running game, Brady looked like his usual self and his receivers were on par with him. The first drive was rough as Brandon Lloyd gaffed a reception that would’ve been clear touchdown and Wes Welker dropped a pass on third-and-long that would have guaranteed a first down. After that, the group began rolling. The tight ends had the best game as Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez ended the game with 6 receptions and a touchdown each. Brandon Lloyd showed why the Patriots brought him in with speed and ability to adjust and catch passes. Welker was unusually quiet today with 3 catches for 14 yards.
The offensive line, which was the biggest concern coming into the season, played well throughout the game. Brady was sacked once the entire game for eight yards. With the Patriots implementing two or three tight ends, the o-line kept the running game up to speed whether it was Bolden, Woodhead or Ridley in the backfield.
Without further introduction, welcome to the NFL Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Including the two first-round picks, the defense played a great game. More importantly, Vince Wilfork and company held Chris Johnson to four yards on 11 carries. Yes, FOUR yards on 11 carries, which is a career low for the running back. The pass defense wasn’t great, but it was better than they were last season. While not allowing many deep passes, Jake Locker threw for 229 yards and held him to one touchdown.
Chandler Jones showed why the Patriots traded up to get him in the draft. He showed speed, good decision making and a level of athleticism that can take this team’s defensive line play to the next level. Also add captain Jerod Mayo to the list of players who had a great game. He ended the game with a team-high nine tackles and was a key force to keeping Chris Johnson grounded.
Play of the Game
On a rookie-to-rookie connection, Chandler Jones got pressure on Jake Locker and forced a fumble in the end zone which lead Dont’a Hightower recovering the ball to score his first defensive touchdown in his career to put the Patriots up 14-3.
Dan Connolly (concussion)