The regular season has begun, and through one quarter of play, the Patriots lead the Titans 7-3. Passing along five observations of note from the initial frame.
1. Defense bends, doesn't break on opening drive. The Titans opted to receive after winning the coin toss, and were impressive in maneuvering the football 69 yards down the field to the Patriots 11-yard line. But the Patriots were able to apply pressure to quarterback Jake Locker on a 3rd & 7 situation, forcing him out of the pocket and having to throw towards the end zone on the run. Cornerback Devin McCourty was credited with the pass break-up of a throw intended for Damian Williams, halting the drive and leading to a field goal attempt. McCourty may have interfered on the play, but no penalty was called.
2. McCourty serves as returner. Speaking of McCourty, he was back deep to handle the first kickoff return for the Patriots of the season. We saw McCourty fielding kicks during preseason play, and he presents a package of very good speed and agility. Kickoff return was an area that the Patriots struggled with in 2011, and a player who many believed could be a factor in the return game, rookie Jeff Demps, has been placed on the injured reserve list.
3. Drops halt first offensive drive. The Patriots were inches away from an easy score on offense during their opening drive, as quarterback Tom Brady arced a spiral to a wide-open Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd slowed up on his route prior to the ball arriving, eventually turning around and misplaying the football for a bad drop. A play later, Wes Welker allowed a ball to bounce right off his face mask, leading to a punt from Zoltan Mesko. Count this drive as a missed opportunity.
4. No surprise starters. The Patriots enter the season in good health, and there were no surprise starters in the lineup. (Offensive starters listed here, defensive here). A few notes as it relates to starters: Ryan Wendell emerged from the center competition, with Dan Connolly sliding to right guard. Defensively, both first-round picks, defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower, were also starters.
5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties: cornerback Ras-I Dowling (pass interference).