New England Patriots: Handing out Week 1 MVP, LVP and Top Rookie Awards
This team was focused, energized and multi-dimensional.
Our franchise running back had a career day. Both of our dominating tight ends picked up where they left off last season. Three rookie defenders changed the tone of the game and our quarterback was ruthless.
This is starting to feel like a vintage Bill Belichick team: a perfect blend of muscle and finesse, a liaison between power and poetry.
Sunday was a beautiful day for Patriots fans.
Now, on to the awards!
Here are New England's MVP, LVP and top rookie from Week 1.
Most Valuable Player: Stevan Ridley
BenJarvus Green-Ellis was New England's top running back last season. His power wasn't elite, nor was his speed, but his ball control was masterful. His ability to protect the rock always outweighed any literal expectations for dominant yardage or momentum-swinging runs.
Then, two things happened: The Patriots lost the Super Bowl and BenJarvus Green-Ellis left the team.
These two things combined to create a climate in which a more multi-dimensional offense would not only be preferable, but necessary, if the Patriots intended to beat a strong pass-rushing NFC team that was capable of breaking down their air attack.
In New England's season-opener against Tennessee, Stevan Ridley looked to prove himself, not only as a franchise back, but as an upgrade from Green-Ellis. He carried the rock 21 times and racked up 125 yards with a touchdown.
So, why did Ridley win the MVP award? Because of his numbers on Sunday? Partly, but not entirely.
Ridley won this award because he's theorizing a more complex offense for our team.
This is a running back who can be measured not just by ball security, but by sprints and gains. We can place expectations on his shoulders. He's showing us that there's more than BenJarvus Green-Ellis, just as Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez showed us that there was more than Randy Moss.
The 125 yards that Ridley plunked down on Sunday afternoon weren't just his stats, they were his closing arguments.
Least Valuable Player: Nate Solder
With only three receptions and 14 yards on Sunday, Wes Welker very nearly won this award.
Ultimately, though, I gave him a pass. Why? Two reasons: Bad games are rare for Welker and Tom Brady doesn't get sacked when Welker has a rough day.
As such, this award goes to Nate Solder. Why? Because so-so games are common for Solder. When he has a rough afternoon, or just gets beat once, Brady goes down.
When Brady got sandwich-sacked by the Saints in preseason, Brady's face was covered in field turf. I remember thinking to myself, "Well, at least it isn't blood."
Problem is, it only took one regular season game for the field turf on Brady's face to become blood. Tennessee's Kamerion Wimbley beat Nate Solder and sacked Brady hard, leaving him with a busted nose.
In all fairness, I recognize that Solder is playing hard out there. And aside from that bloody sack, Solder was decent on the field.
But still, his ability to win tough battles is sketchy. He's a work-in-progress, but Brady is the guy who pays for the "progress."
Top Rookie: Chandler Jones
When Chandler Jones is on the field, good things happen. He's either breaking ankles, making the tackle or getting to the quarterback.
In New England's season-opener, Jones put a sensational maneuver on Michael Roos and strip-sacked Jake Locker (the fumble was run in for a touchdown by fellow rookie Dont'a Hightower).
Jones is a game-changer. He is, quite possibly, the missing piece of this puzzle.
His energy is relentless. His arsenal of moves is so mind-blowing, he can thwart danger with his lengthy arms, his bulky torso or his quick legs (or a combination of all three).
On Sunday afternoon, we saw a defensive line with swagger. It's been a long time since we've seen that.
Vintage Bill Belichick football, made possible by Chandler Jones and a newly-rejuvinated line.