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Sunday, September 9, 2012
Grades: High marks in opener

By Mike Rodak


Bill Belichick

Couldn't have asked for a better game plan to stop Chris Johnson, holding him to a 0.36 yards-per-carry average. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich noted how the defense adjusted well after a 12-play Titans opening drive. Credit Belichick for preparing his team well to play on the road in their opener.


Pass offense

This unit was largely effective, relying on tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to move the ball through the air. Yet there were some miscues, notably a failed Tom Brady-to-Brandon Lloyd connection after Lloyd was open deep. One lingering question from the game will be how Wes Welker is used in the offense going forward after a quiet day.


Rush offense

At first glance, a strong performance for the Patriots' running game, as they controlled the pace of the contest with a 128-yard rushing day for Stevan Ridley. However, Ridley had five runs of 0, 1 or 2 yards (in non-short yardage situations), as well as four runs for losses. Room for improvement.


Pass defense

Some troubles continue for this unit, allowing tight end Jared Cook and receiver Nate Washington to make some big plays (catches of 35 and 19 yards for Cook; 29 and 24 yards for Washington). However, this category also includes the pass rush, where Chandler Jones' strip sack of Jake Locker, recovered and returned for a TD by Dont'a Hightower, changed the game.


Rush defense

Would be nearly impossible to top this performance, with the Patriots rendering a once-powerful Titans running game virtually useless. Overall, the Titans had 20 rushing yards on 16 carries, including 4 yards on 11 carries for Chris Johnson. Wow.


Special teams

A mixed bag here. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski boomed every kickoff, including some that nearly made it into the stands behind the end zone. Punter Zoltan Mesko, on the other hand, struggled on some of his punts. Coverage units performed well.