Patriots vs. Titans: Which Patriots Deserve Game Balls?

Samer IsmailAnalyst IISeptember 9, 2012

Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez takes a bow after scoring a TD.
Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez takes a bow after scoring a TD.Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The New England Patriots won their Week 1 matchup against the Tennessee Titans 34-13. A number of players stood out with their performances against the Titans.

Here are the six players most worthy of game balls.

Stevan Ridley, RB

Many Patriots fans questioned why the Patriots didn't re-sign BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Today, we got a partial explanation for that decision.

With Shane Vereen out with an injury, the Patriots used Ridley as their lead running back. Ridley responded with 17 carries for 125 yards (long of 17), and one touchdown. He also added two receptions for 27 yards.

Aaron Hernandez, TE, and Rob Gronkowski, TE

The two-headed Gronknandez monster continued to pay dividends for the Patriots. They combined for a modest 12 catches for 119 yards, but, more importantly, each of them scored a touchdown. Gronkowski and Hernandez also provided capable blocking that, among other things, helped Ridley score his touchdown, too.

Perhaps the most amusing part of the day was Gronkowski's failed attempt at a spike, which actually received front-page attention on NFL.com.

Tavon Wilson, S

In his first regular season NFL game, "surprise" second-round draft pick Tavon Wilson gave a glimpse as to why the Patriots selected him. He finished the game with three tackles and an interception in the end zone, catching an errant pass by the Titans quarterback that was deflected by Kyle Arrington.

Dont'a Hightower, LB, and Chandler Jones, DE

After some early struggles by the offense, the Patriots' rookie first-round picks combined for the defensive play of the game. With the Titans backed-up on 3rd and 13 at their own 7, Jones beat left tackle Michael Roos to strip-sack Jake Locker. Dont'a Hightower, who's listed at 6'3", 270 pounds—and looks every bit that size—picked up that fumble, eluded a tackle and cruised into the end zone to put the Patriots up 14-3.

Hightower finished with four tackles; Jones also had two tackles for losses.

Honorable Mention: Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love and the Run Defense

Danny Woodhead had a quiet day, with six carries for 20 yards. That's as many yards rushing as the entire Titans offense. And half of those yards came from Jake Locker, who had two rushes for 11 yards. The Patriots defense managed to hold Chris Johnson to just 4 yards on 11 carries.

The Patriots run defense won't always be that good, but if they're anywhere close to that for the rest of the season, look out.

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