NEPD Staff Writer: Matthew Jones
Here is a drive-by-drive look at the New England Patriots performance in their 34-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
New England went with Rob Ninkovich, Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, and Chandler Jones on the defensive line to start the game. Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Dont’a Hightower were the starting linebackers. The secondary consisted of Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington at cornerback, with Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory as the safeties. Ras-I Dowling also got some substantial playing time at right cornerback in the nickel (Kyle Arrington shifting inside to the slot.) The Titans moved the ball downfield well on the first drive of the game. Kendall Wright looked extremely explosive on a big catch against Ras-I Dowling, and Dowling was called for a pass interference call on another play. Chris Johnson had trouble getting started thanks to some strong fits from New England’s defense, but Jake Locker was able to move the Titans into field goal range, where Rob Bironas gave Tennessee a 3-0 lead. Tennessee converted a fourth-and-one during the drive by throwing a fade route to Nate Washington (Kyle Arrington in coverage) for a 24-yard gain. Devin McCourty broke up a pass to the end zone on a third down play which could have been flagged for defensive pass interference.
Titans 3, Patriots 0
Devin McCourty was back to return the kick and cut back for a nice gain; he used the stiff-arm to gain a little bit of space and stepped out of bounds. New England started Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, and Sebastian Vollmer on the offensive line. Tom Brady looked for Aaron Hernandez on the first throw of the game; Hernandez broke a couple of tackles for a moderate gain. Stevan Ridley broke free on a nice run to the left side of the line for a first down. Brady faked a handoff and a reverse but wasn’t able to connect with a wide-open Brandon Lloyd deep downfield; the Patriots were forced to punt after an incomplete pass to Wes Welker. The throw looked accurate into a tight window, but Welker wasn’t able to hang on.
Chandler Jones made a tackle in the backfield for a loss of three yards on the first snap of Tennessee’s drive; Jones later recorded a quarterback hit as the Patriots defense forced a three-and-out. Dont’a Hightower was also used as a pass rusher on third down; he looked very good during the first two defensive drives in all three facets of the game (pass rush, run defense, coverage.) Julian Edelman was back to return the punt and gained 13 yards.
Following his drop to end the previous drive, Wes Welker was replaced on the field by Julian Edelman. On second down, Rob Gronkowski got open on a crossing route and gained a ton of yards after the catch. Stevan Ridley followed up Gronkowski’s catch with a 16-yard run to the outside; Nate Solder crushed someone on a pull block, and Ridley broke one tackle as well. New England scored very quickly on a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Aaron Hernandez following a play-fake; the throw was set up by a number of previous runs out of the same single-back look.
Patriots 7, Titans 3
Nate Washington got open on first down for the Titans, but dropped a throw that was a little bit high. Tennessee converted a third-down play on a very nice throw from Jake Locker to Jared Cook which landed between three defenders.
Tennessee threw passes on every play of their drive, but Tavon Wilson ended the drive by making a diving interception in the end zone on a deep attempt by Locker; the pass were tipped into the air by Kyle Arrington, who was in coverage on the play.
Tom Brady connected with Brandon Lloyd on an amazing diving catch on a crossing route; Lloyd somehow managed to get both feet inbounds before falling out-of-bounds on a gain of 28 yards. The play was challenged by Tennessee. Brady connected on a designed screen pass to Stevan Ridley, who was lined up at wide receiver. Nate Solder was beat to the edge on third down, and Kamerion Wimbley chased down and sacked Tom Brady to force a punt; Brady was examined on the training staff after taking a knee to the head on the play. Zoltan Mesko pinned the Titans inside the ten-yard line; the play was downed by Danny Aiken.
Dont’a Hightower stuffed a second-down run after setting the edge beautifully. Chandler Jones beat Michael Roos and stripped Jake Locker from behind on third down; the fumble was recovered by Dont’a Hightower for a touchdown.
Patriots 14, Titans 3
New England’s run defense continued to look very stout; Chandler Jones and Jermaine Cunningham both combined to stuff
Chris Johnson on a first-down carry. The Patriots forced a quick punt after corralling Chris Johnson one yard short of the first down.
Stevan Ridley broke a tackle and gained a first-down a hard run. Brandon Lloyd was wide open on a first-down throw; Brady entered the no-huddle and converted for a first-down on a quarterback sneak. Danny Woodhead squirted through the line on a strange run in which he was able to get up off of the ground and gain a few extra yards. Aaron Hernandez took a direct snap on a trick play and converted a first-down after setting up next to Tom Brady in the backfield. Brady connected with Julian Edelman for a first down on a subsequent play. Wes Welker’s first catch came with under four minutes left in the half. Marcus Cannon replaced Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle for much of the drive. Brady threw a perfect ball to Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown out of a heavy goal-line formation; Gronkowski attempted to spike the ball but it had slipped out of his hands.
Patriots 21, Titans 3
Tavon Wilson saw extensive action in New England’s sub packages; he made a tackle to force a fourth-down. Jermaine Cunningham sacked Jake Locker during the two-minute drill as well. Tennessee was ultimately forced to punt the ball and New England carried a 21-3 lead into halftime.
New England’s offense has been firing on all cylinders. Tom Brady looks sharp (10/13, 123 yards, 2 TD), and Stevan Ridley has the look of a number one back (nine carries for 58 yards.) Brandon Lloyd showcased his ability to separate, and the passing game has been impressive overall. Surprisingly, Wes Welker was barely involved in the offense. Defensively, New England struggled to prevent completions in the passing game, but limited Tennessee overall and settled down after the first drive of the game. The Patriots’ run defense looked outstanding, as Chris Johnson totaled just 9 yards on 9 carries. Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and Tavon Wilson all made big plays.