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Sunday, September 9, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Patriots 34, Titans 13

By Mike Reiss


NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots' 34-13 win over the Titans at LP Field:

PatriotsTitansWhat it means: Solid opening effort from the Patriots, who extend the NFL's longest active streak of opening victories (9). The Patriots have been on the road for three wins during the streak and to come into this environment and control the game the way they did -- after a slow start defensively -- was impressive. They were clearly the superior team.

Rookie impact on D: The Patriots’ top three draft choices highlighted a strong defensive effort, with defensive end Chandler Jones (first round, No. 21 overall) strip-sacking Titans quarterback Jake Locker in the second quarter and linebacker Dont'a Hightower (first round, No. 25 overall) recovering and returning it 6 yards for a touchdown. Earlier, safety Tavon Wilson (second round, No. 48 overall) had an interception. Looks like the Patriots have picked themselves some much-needed difference-makers.

Brady takes big hit; is marvelous: There was a hold-your-breath moment for Patriots followers when quarterback Tom Brady was sacked from the blind side by Kamerion Wimbley on the team’s third series. Brady required medical attention on the sideline, with athletic trainers and doctors working on his nose. He wore a bandage over the bridge of his nose. The big hit didn’t affect his performance, as Brady was marvelous. He finished 23-of-31 for 236 yards and two touchdowns.

Run defense puts clamps on Johnson: One of the Patriots’ main points of emphasis entering the game was limiting speedy running back Chris Johnson. Mission accomplished. Johnson finished with 11 carries for 4 yards. No further explanation needed.

Ridley in the lead role at running back: The post-BenJarvus Green-Ellis era began with the Patriots featuring Stevan Ridley as their lead back. The second-year pro out of LSU was one of the team’s top performers, with hard-charging running and good ball security. Ridley established a new career high for rushing yards (he had 58 at the half, 106 after his 1-yard TD run late in the third quarter, and finished with 125 yards on 21 carries), as the rushing attack looked more explosive than 2011.

Quiet day for Welker: Patriots receiver Wes Welker entered the day needing four catches to become the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions. He finished with three (for 14 yards). Welker was rotated with Julian Edelman throughout the game, as he didn’t have his usual heavy playing time load.

Injuries to monitor: Starting right guard Dan Connolly left early in the fourth quarter and did not return. His final play was serving as a lead-blocking fullback on Ridley’s 1-yard touchdown run. Donald Thomas finished the game at right guard. There were no other known injuries. For the Titans, linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle), Locker (left, non-throwing, shoulder) and receiver Nate Washington (leg contusion) were notable injuries.

What’s next: The Patriots return to New England for their home opener on Sunday, Sept. 16, against the Arizona Cardinals (1 p.m. ET).