Patriots vs. Titans: New England's Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 1
New England showcased a little bit of everything on Sunday afternoon. Some players excelled, while others couldn't get jump-started. Needless to say, head coach Bill Belichick will have a laundry list of notes to carry back to Foxborough.
Here are the Pats' winners and losers from the tilt in Nashville, Tenn.
Winner: Tavon Wilson
Rookie safety Tavon Wilson made a name for himself versus Tennessee.
During the second quarter of action, the second-round draft selection came down with a fantastic interception as Titans' quarterback Jake Locker threw a bomb into the end zone.
The play was a landmark for two men on different sides of the ball. For Wilson, it was his first career pick. For Locker, it was his first career intercepted pass.
The Patriots have to feel confident in Wilson, an Illinois product who was considered a reach by most draft scouts.
Loser: Shane Vereen
Running back Shane Vereen's performance on Sunday struck resemblance to 2011—he didn't play.
The 2011 second-round pick was ruled out with a foot injury, according to Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe.
A young rusher with gifted athletic abilities, Vereen hasn't been able to get on the field much during his time in New England. Entering his second NFL season, the former California Golden Bear has seen action in just five regular-season games.
With Stevan Ridley emerging as the No. 1 back, Vereen's role is undefined at this point. The train is leaving the station, regardless of whether or not Vereen is on board.
Winner: First-Round Picks Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower
The future of the New England defensive front was on display Sunday, as both rookie first-rounders made an impact.
Defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower combined for a sensational turnover in the second quarter against Tennessee.
The Titans lined up in the shadow of their own end zone when Chandler Jones came off the edge and strip-sacked QB Jake Locker. The loose ball was picked up by Dont'a Hightower and carried in for a touchdown.
The two top draft picks started their NFL careers off on the right foot, and that's a big plus for the Patriots.
Loser: Wes Welker
Wes Welker was unable to get anything going against the Titans.
When the wide receiver was targeted during the first quarter, the results reminded some of his Super Bowl XLVI drop. Quarterback Tom Brady saw his pass rattle against Welker's facemask, and he didn't fare much better from there on out.
A tweet courtesy of CSNNE.com's Tom E. Curran summed up the play:
Annnd Brady bullet on third and 8 drills welker in the face. #INTHEFACE!— Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) September 9, 2012
In the first half, Welker collected just one catch for five yards. In the second half, No. 83 had two snags for nine yards.
All in all, it was an uncharacteristic day for Welker.
Winner: Tight Ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez
Nothing out of the ordinary was seen from New England's tight ends. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski got open, they caught passes, and touchdowns were scored.
What more have we come to expect?
It's hard to find a duo that is as potent as the Pats' tight ends. The two combined for 12 catches, 119 receiving yards and two scores. On top of that, Hernandez also rushed the ball once for five yards.
Loser: Dan Connolly
Versatile offensive guard/center Dan Connolly stood his ground during Sunday's game, although he bore the brunt of an injury and did not return.
A tweet from Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald detailed Connolly's exit:
Not good. Dan Connolly is out with a head injury. He's had concussions in the past.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) September 9, 2012
Having a track record with head injuries makes Connolly's situation particularly concerning. If the veteran blocker misses time—which would be understandable—a stopgap must be in place. Unfortunately, the Patriots are thin in terms of depth along the offensive line.
Winner: The Run Defense
Any time a defense can shut down an offense's ground attack, the game becomes one-dimensional. That was the case for Tennessee.
The Titans rushed the ball 16 times and gained just 20 yards—an ugly 1.3 yards-per-carry.
Because of the Pats' strong run D, Tennessee was forced to air the ball out 43 times.
Winner: Stevan Ridley
Halfback Stevan Ridley is looking to do big things during his second NFL campaign. His production against the Titans was proof of that.
Ridley rushed the ball 21 times for 125 yards and a touchdown. With a very efficient 6.0 yards-per-carry, the 2011 third-round pick has clinched the starting duties.
The LSU Tiger also lent a helping hand out of the backfield as a pass-catcher, grabbing two passes for 27 yards.
He may not be the prototypical bell-cow back Corey Dillon once was, but the Patriots don't need him to be.
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