New England Patriots' Heroes and Zeros vs. Tennessee Titans

James DiMaio@@JamesDiMaioCorrespondent ISeptember 10, 2012

New England Patriots' Heroes and Zeros vs. Tennessee Titans

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    The New England Patriots kicked off the 2012 season right with a 34-13 win over the Tennessee Titans.

    The defending AFC champs looked impressive on both sides of the ball in their first game of the year, but not without a few blemishes here and there.

    Here's a look at the heroes and zeros that stood out in New England's blowout win over the Titans in LP Field on Sunday afternoon.

Hero: Stevan Ridley

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    BenJarvus who?

    The Patriots couldn't have asked for a better Week 1 performance from BenJarvus Green-Ellis' replacement, second-year running back Stevan Ridley.

    Ridley showcased his decisiveness, power and speed on his way to rushing for 125 yards on 21 carries, topped off with a short run for a score.

    Not even Ridley himself expected such a performance.

    "I think it's a little bit better than I envisioned. Twenty-one carries, that's a higher number than what I was expecting," said Ridley after the game (per Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston).

Hero: Tom Brady

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    It wasn't the jaw dropping performance he delivered in last year's opener in Miami (517 yards, four touchdowns), but Tom Brady still put together a stellar game against a talented Titans defense, completing 23 of 31 passes and throwing for 236 yards and two touchdowns.

    Those who were worried that Tom Terrific might finally start to slow down this season can sleep soundly.

Zero: Wes Welker

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    The three-time NFL reception leader had a quiet day.

    In what was an uncharacteristic performance, Wes Welker totaled a miserly three receptions for 14 yards against the Titans defense.

    This less-than-impressive stat line may have been more of a result of New England's game plan than a lack of individual effort, as Welker was rarely targeted by Brady, who seemed to favor his tight ends.

Hero: The Boston TE Party

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    The two-headed monster that makes up the Boston TE Party continued to terrorize defenders Sunday afternoon in Tennessee.

    Rob Gronkowski (six catches, 60 yards) and Aaron Hernandez (six catches, 59 yards) each had a touchdown reception against the Titans and look primed to be the best tight end tandem in football again in 2012.

Zero: The Gronk Spike

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    While Gronk had little trouble reeling in the touchdown pass, the execution of his touchdown celebration wasn't as successful.

    Attempting his customary "Gronk Spike" following his touchdown reception, Gronkowski lost the grip of the football as he was cocking his arm back for the pigskin blow.

    You know you had a good day when the only knock on your performance was your touchdown celebration.

Heroes: The Rookies

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    Could the Pats have asked for a better NFL debut from their first three 2012 draft picks?

    Chandler Jones got a sack and a forced fumble. Dont'a Hightower recovered said fumble for a touchdown. Tavon Wilson snatched a tipped ball in New England's end zone for an interception.

    Bill Belichick looks like a genius right now. Talk about rookie production!

Zero: Kyle Arrington

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    Overall, Kyle Arrington had a decent game, however he earns the "zero" status here for giving up a 24-yard reception to Nate Washington on fourth down.

    Giving up a short gain on the ground on fourth-and-inches is one thing, but 24 yards through the air?

    That's unacceptable, Kyle!

Heroes: The Run Defense

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    Four yards.

    That's how many yards Chris Johnson gained rushing against New England's stingy run defense. No other defense can say they've accomplished such a feat.

    The Patriots went into this week of practice with a mission: stop Chris Johnson.

    Mission accomplished.