Tom Brady made sure to find a nice rhythm in the offense, working the ball around to six different receivers on the day and utilizing his tight ends to the same success as in 2011. Gronk and Hernandez combined for 12 catches, 119 yards and two touchdowns on the day.
Unlike Ochocinco's uneventful start to his lackluster Patriots career, Lloyd and Brady established a connection with five catches for 69 yards, which was a solid finish given the rocky start with a missed opportunity on a deep ball down the middle.
Stevan Ridley also showed off in his first career start, busting out for 125 yards on 21 carries and scoring a touchdown to help put the Patriots on top for good. His effort between the tackles and bouncing out to the outside helped open up the Patriots attack on offense.
Jerod Mayo quietly worked his way to a 13-tackle performance and the rookie combination of Jones and Hightower added in 10 tackles, a sack and a touchdown return of their own.
The secondary, although exposed at times also saw a big improvement as Devin McCourty had seven tackles and a pair of pass breakups and rookie Tavon Wilson made a miraculous interception early in the second quarter.
Overall an impressive first win for the Patriots, Belichick must be pleased.
Fourth Quarter, 0:31, Patriots 34-13: Gostkowski sends his second field goal of the day to finish the Titans off.
This time he lifted a 31-yarder through the uprights and gave the Pats a 34-13 lead that will likely take these two teams back into the showers.
Fourth Quarter, 2:00, Patriots 31-13: A rough start to the day defensively has eventually become an impressive showing for the Patriots.
Jerod Mayo, 13 tackles, and Vince Wilfork have been leading the defensive effort while McCourty has been making up for a few missed assignments earlier in the day en route to seven tackles and a pair of pass breakups. A really solid day for the third-year corner.
Fourth Quarter, 4:19, Patriots 31-13: Brady to Lloyd, boy does that sound like music to the ears of Patriots fans.
The duo has hooked up five times for 69 yards on the afternoon, making damn sure that the missed deep ball earlier in the day doesn't define their relationship.
Stevan Ridley has been a pillar on offense as well, blazing to 125 yards on 21 carries for what is very possibly the Patriots most successful rushing attack in recent memory.
But the Patriots were unable to find the end zone on this drive, giving Gostkowski a chip shot from 25 yards out instead to increase the lead to 31-13.
Fourth Quarter, 9:17, Patriots 28-13: Locker's absence was not a good sign, but Hasselbeck looked good in his spot.
A solid 16-play, 73-yard drive down deep into the red zone got Hasselbeck awfully close to a touchdown but ultimately Bironas put three more points on the board with a 24-yard field goal.
Hasselbeck may have lost his starting job but he's definitely proving that he deserves to be starting somewhere in the NFL.
Fourth Quarter, 11:36, Patriots 28-10: Jake Locker might be done for the day, and the outlook doesn't look very good.
He's been getting crushed all day by this Patriots defense and might have finally felt something twinge in his abdomen(?).
Locker was 23 for 32 for 229 yards on the day when he left.
Check out the photo below to see just how much agony Locker's been enduring all day.
Fourth Quarter, 13:52, Patriots 21-10: There may be a lot more to worry about than an 18-point deficit in Tennessee.
Nate Washington just got lit up by a Jerod Mayo shoulder to the head, leaving him seemingly unconscious on the field for at least a few minutes.
Then as Patrick Chung returned the fumble, that ultimately was for naught, Jake Locker made the tackle but seemed to twist himself strangely and injury some part of his abdomen potentially.
Hasselbeck in for the Titans at quarterback.
End Third Quarter, Patriots 28-10: It's been a combined effort on both sides of the ball to give the Patriots their 18-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have hooked up for 60 of the Patriots 192 yards through the air. But it's been the steady push of Stevan Ridley on the ground that's given Brady the flexibility to make things happen in the passing attack.
On defense, the stars have been the youngsters as Jones and Hightower combined for the defensive score earlier in the game. But it's been Vince Wilfork's effort up front that really has been the most important piece for New England on Sunday.
Third Quarter, 1:04, Patriots 28-10: The Patriots offensive line may not be keeping Tom Brady all that well protected, but they've got Stevan Ridley's back. And he's repaying them.
On his first true start in a Patriots uniform, Ridley has already gone over 100 yards and has his first touchdown of the season.
A strong show of focus inside the holes and powerful running from Ridley has helped the Patriots maintain their offensive poise and keep some consistency going away from the passing attack.
Third Quarter, 3:24, Patriots 21-10: A challenge may have done McCourty's interception in, but a challenge flag also could have seen a safety called on that tackle from Ras-I Dowling.
It looked like the Damian Williams might have re-started his forward progress inside the end zone before going down. But oh, well.
Either way the Patriots put on another great defensive effort deep inside the Titans zone and this is the sort of play that keeps a strong hold on the Tennessee offense.
Third Quarter, 4:44, Patriots 21-10: You gotta catch that!
Devin McCourty made a nice break on an under thrown route, but even if it was called a catch on the field it looks like this one's coming back.
When you're trying to get the offense going and establish some sort of presence in the defensive backfield you need to haul that one in. Come on, Devin.
Third Quarter, 5:44, Patriots 21-10: Brady got a nice little connection flowing with Gronk and Lloyd, but that still couldn't get the Patriots into the end zone.
A few missed chances on the ground by Ridley and a couple under — and over for that matter — thrown balls from Brady led to another unsuccessful series.
Locker takes over inside the 10, though, as Jones, Hightower and the defensive line will look to keep enact another pressure-filled possession and force a second turnover.
Third Quarter, 10:17, Patriots 21-10: The Patriots secondary was exposed at times in the first half, and after a strong showing to finish the half off Jake Locker did it again.
Locker hooked up with Nate Washington for a 29-yard touchdown over the top of McCourty and dashing right on past Steven Gregory.
It was an impressive show of strength as Locker was forced outside the pocket and made the pretty throw on the run.
The defensive line didn't find much success on that drive but there should be a strong push after Pepper Johnson and Matt Patricia give them a talking to on the sidelines.
Third Quarter, 11:47, Patriots 21-3: If the first half was a pass heavy attack, the second half has started out with an onus on the run game.
Stevan Ridley was given a chance to really show off his skills out of the backfield with a pair of big runs to start the second half and get Brady and the offense rolling right along.
A missed opportunity on that bounced pass to Julian Edelman saw the Pats leave points on the board, but with the run game established even more there were more positives than anything taken out of that drive.
End Second Quarter, Patriots 21-3: Tom Brady's receivers looked to be a bit out of sync on the Patriots first drive of the season. But since then they've been in cruise control.
A big step up by the defense, including some impressive work from both Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower, has given Brady and the offense some time to gel and put them back out on the field time and again without much delay.
A first quarter toss to Hernandez got the Pats on the board early to take a 7-3 lead, but it was the two-yard flick to Gronk that ultimately asserted the Patriots offensive dominance.
Ridley has been stellar out of the backfield, taking the ball nine times for 58 yards and really grinding out the Titans defensive line. And Brandon Lloyd's presence, following a big early miscue, has given the Patriots a deep option as he's hauled in a pair of passes for 36 yards.
Aside from Jones and Hightower, who've combined for the Pats second score of the day on a fumble return for the touchdown, Jermaine Cunningham has looked monstrous and injected his presence with a seven-yard sack of Locker to end the first half. Jerod Mayo's nine tackles have fallen under the radar, given the big plays of these guys and others, but his play has certainly not gone unappreciated.
Second Quarter, 2:00, Patriots 21-3: Get Gronk'd!
One season after his breakout 90 catch, 17 touchdown campaign, Gronkowski is back at it.
It looked like no time had passed with the connection between Gronk and Brady being as solid as ever on a pretty two-yard TD grab in the back of the end zone.
Hernandez was deployed in some interesting ways in that series, but Gronk ultimately does the dirty work to put the Pats up even more with a 21-3 lead.
Second Quarter, 3:15, Patriots 14-3: Josh McDaniels is finding some creative ways to get Aaron Hernandez involved in this Patriots offense.
Hernandez, who was expected to be more active within the offense, has already lined up at both wide receiver spots, his normal tight end position as well as in the backfield.
A direct snap to Hernandez had to be the most unique play of the half, as well as the best way to keep him involved.
Second Quarter, 8:15, Patriots 14-3: The Titans got the ball to start the game and Jake Locker made the Patriots defense look almost as bad as they did in 2011. But boy has that changed.
The presence of first-rounders Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower have been both confirmed and asserted.
Jones has been making a living in the backfield for the Pats and Hightower has been using his size and strength to not only make Johnson's life miserable, but also to put points on the board for the Patriots.
Jermaine Cunningham and Kyle Love have also been impressive on the defensive side, so this Patriots defense might not be so bad after all.
Second Quarter, 11:07, Patriots 14-3: Welcome to the NFL, boys.
Chandler Jones has been the big name around Patriots camp since things got underway, but don't forget about Dont'a.
After cutting down Chris Johnson in the backfield to start that Titans possession, Jones and Hightower combined for a show of defensive magic.
Jones got to Locker inside the end zone, forcing a fumble, while Hightower was the opportune man to scoop it up and return it for the score.
What a series of events, and these two are just adding to the expectations and excitement.
Second Quarter, 12:06, Patriots 7-3: Tom Brady didn't connect on any touchdown passes this time around, but still a great sign from New England's third offensive possession.
Brady hit a breaking Brandon Lloyd along the sideline, and after a terrible missed opportunity early on, Lloyd responded nicely with an acrobatic grab that showed off his true potential.
The series ended with a bit of a scare, though, as the Pats offensive line broke down — surprise, surprise — and Kamerion Wimbley got around Nate Solder to sack Brady.
A bloody nose was the result, but it shouldn't keep Brady from continuing to sling his magic.
Second Quarter, 14:14, Patriots 7-3: When Tavon Wilson first came to Gillette Stadium after being the Patriots second-round pick in April, he said he just wanted to be the "best Tavon I can be."
Well, if that athletic interception of Locker's deep ball is any indication of the work he can produce, then I'm in.
A nice tipped ball from Kyle Arrington got the ball up in the air, but Wilson made an unbelievable leap and was able to grab the ball before getting to the ground.
Wow. I like this kid already.
End First Quarter, Patriots 7-3: Am I crazy to believe that Tom Brady's third wide receiver search is officially over?
Aaron Hernandez has time and time again proved himself as a viable option in the open field, and after getting receiver money on his recent contract extensions it looks like he may be filling that void, too.
Hernandez snagged the 23-yard touchdown to put the Pats up 7-3, but he also has been lining up on the outside and looking like a target on most plays.
Stevan Ridley's emergence early in this one is also encouraging, as the Pats may finally have found their much-needed running game. Six rushes for 36 yards? Yes, please.
The big concern at this point is in the Pats secondary, as both McCourty and Kyle Arrington have been exposed so far and by a second-year slinger in Jake Locker to boot. Frightening.
First Quarter, 1:59, Patriots 7-3: The first drive may have looked like a travesty, but Brady found his rhythm on the second series of the day.
A great pitch and catch to Rob Gronkowski set things up, but it was a toss to the other tight end that finally got the Pats on the board.
Brady hooked up with Aaron Hernandez for a 23-yard score and suddenly New England is looking a lot more like the 2011 version of this team.
Brady gets the score but Ridley continues to churn out yards on the ground. He's already dashed for 36 yards on just six carries and could well find himself over 100 yards on the day if he continues this sort of hard-nosed running. He is quickly earning that No. 1 tailback role and maybe even more with this attack.
First Quarter, 4:05, Titans 3-0: Vince Wilfork is leading this front seven to some dominant play early against Chris Johnson and the Titans run game.
Chandler Jones looked stellar on the second defensive series as well, showing off his athleticism and ability to get out on the edge.
Also, a great return from Edelman showed off his potential impact on this team.
First Quarter, 6:48, Titans 3-0: Tom Brady's first offensive series of the season was a real mixed bag.
Stevan Ridley showed off a great amount of poise and strength with a 17-yard dash through the middle to give the Pats life. But it was the missed opportunity from Brandon Lloyd that really stands out.
With a great double play action by Brady, Lloyd found himself all alone — Randy Moss-esque — deep down the middle, but a misplay and maybe some uncertainty saw the play go for naught.
A big miss hurts in the early going, but more than anything hurts the confidence that Lloyd can be anything more than what Chad Ochocinco brought — or didn't bring — to this team last season.
First Quarter, 8:43, Titans 3-0: The Titans are on the board already, but Mike Munchak can't be happy about how that drive ended.
After Jake Locker made the Patriots secondary look foolish for much of the Titans first drive, a non-call in the end zone may have cost Tennessee four points.
Devin McCourty was blanketing his man in the end zone but, without looking back for the ball, jumped out on the receiver and cut off the pass. It was a really bad non-call and could be a big problem for the Titans, especially if Tom Brady and the Pats do get going early.
First Quarter, 10:54: Jake Locker has been exploiting holes in the Patriots defense early, and with a gutsy fourth and inches call, the Titans are taking advantage.
Nate Washington blew by Kyle Arrington and rose up to haul in the lofted ball overtop. With so many questions surrounding this secondary entering the season, this early performance isn't quelling any of the concerns.
First Quarter, 15:00: Stephen Gostkowski kicked it off to start the 2012 season and he put the ball into the back of the Titans end zone, giving the Patriots a chance to get set on defense at the start.
Both of the Patriots first-round picks, Chanlder Jones and Dont'a Hightower get the start against Tennessee. This should be a big test for them.
12:51 p.m.: The grass at L.P. Field is green and the temperature is rising into the mid-70s, which can only mean one thing: it's game time.
Tom Brady and the Patriots are marching out onto the field with all intentions of making a strong impression in their Week 1 performance in Tennessee.
But while the Pats prepare to take the field, let's take a look at three key points to keep a lookout for on Sunday.
1. Stevan Ridley's impact — With Shane Vereen out and Danny Woodhead being used primarily as a third-down back, Ridley's presence is going to be weighed upon heavily. He'll need to find the same sort of consistent running inside the tackles that he displayed as the preseason went on.
2. Which Devin McCourty shows up? — After a tremendous rookie season, which included a Pro Bowl selection, McCourty appeared lost in 2011. With so much riding on an improved secondary, he will be relied upon heavily and looked toward to guide this defense. Can he do it?
3. Offensive line's ability to keep Tom Brady upright — The O-Line has been a big point of concern so far this preseason, as Brady was finding himself on the ground much more than he likes. His health is key to the Patriots' success, meaning the offensive line better figure out their protection issues, and fast. With Mankins and Vollmer back in the fold full-time, things should improve. But by how much?
12:18 p.m: There are a number of players coming off severe injuries and others being listed as questionable heading into their Week 1 matchups. But as kickoff inches closer, the starting situations for many players is becoming much more clear.
Adrian Peterson, who suffered a torn ACL in Week 16 of the 2011 season, is back and will start for the Vikings on Sunday against Jacksonville. Backup Toby Gearhart should still see a good portion of the carries, but AP most likely will still get 15-20 touches on the afternoon.
A few other big names, such as Rashard Mendenhall, still have time to be evaluated before their respective gametimes, but Green Bay running back James Starks and Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate won't even be tested as both have been ruled out of Week 1 action.
There should be plenty more updates to come, so keep it locked here for all your news, notes and updates from the Patriots and around the NFL.
11:35 a.m.: With Shane Vereen, Alfonzo Dennard and Nick McDonald already confirmed as out for the Patriots opener, Bill Belichick and his staff confirmed the rest of the players who would be missing kickoff with the titans.
Rookie defensive end Jake Bequette headlines that list, as he will be inactive in his first opportunity to suit up for New England. Rookie free agents Justin Francis and Marcus Forston will also be kept on the sidelines, as they didn't make the 46-man roster.
Tight end Daniel Fells has also been ruled out, meaning that Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and newly signed Michael Hoomanawanui will be the tight ends seeing all the action on Sunday.
Wide receiver Greg Salas appears set to make his debut for the Pats, though, as he has a good grasp of Josh McDaniel's offense already and should fit in nicely along with Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd on the outside.
11:10 a.m.: The Patriots are out on the field in Nashville, Tenn. and getting fired up for kickoff of the 2012 regular season.
While Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are ready to take the field there are some Patriots who won't be making an appearance on L.P. Field.
Second-year running back Shane Vereen, who played just five games in 2011 due to injury, has already been ruled out of Sunday's season opener as he recovers from a left foot injury.
But as gametime approaches, it appears that guard Nick McDonald (shoulder) and rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring) will also be held out against the Titans.
Vereen's absence could mean more meaningful time in the backfield for rookie Brandon Bolden, but losing McDonald could arguably be the biggest concern of the day. With an already thin offensive line, especially given Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters' unexpected absence from the roster, the Patriots can ill afford to lose any further depth at the position even though McDonald would be used sparingly anyways.
Dennard has been battling the hamstring for a few weeks and seems to have aggravated the injury during Friday's practice. His absence wouldn't be a great loss as he isn't likely to see a considerable role on defense even if healthy.
8 a.m. ET: Tom Brady found himself staring down small blades of grass plenty during the Patriots preseason schedule, but he's hoping that will change once the real games kick off Sunday. Week 1's matchup against Tennessee will be the offensive line's first true test.
The line problems are definitely a big concern for Bill Belichick and the Patriots' coaching staff, especially now that Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters' time in New England appears to be over. Titans defensive ends Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan should present a tough test, but with bruisers like Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer continuing to protect Brady, he shouldn't be spending much time on his backside.
Another area of concern for this Patriots team is the defensive backfield, which featured the NFL's third worst pass defense in 2011. Devin McCourty appeared lost at times, but with another year of experience under his belt, he should find the stride that made him a Pro Bowler as a rookie. The healthy return of second-year cornerback Ras-I Dowling, who should provide depth in nickel packages, as well as the addition of safety Steven Gregory alongside Patrick Chung, will help firm up that secondary.
Second-year quarterback Jake Locker should provide a challenge for the Patriots defensive line, as he's a quick and bruising runner. But with the additions of rookies Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower to an already stacked front seven that features Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, there shouldn't be all that much room to move around outside the pocket. And with Locker's questionable passing skills and Kyle Arrington, who led the NFL with seven interceptions in 2011, on the outside, the Pats secondary shouldn't encounter too many problems.
The 1 p.m. start will bring plenty of excitement for Patriots fans across New England and beyond, but maybe not as much as when Brady and Rob Gronkowski finally hook up for their first touchdown. I can't say it's definitely going to happen, but in all likelihood, Brady will find those big mitts in the back on a deep ball at least once in this one.
Check out the game on the tube, but also make sure to keep it here with the NESN.com Patriots Live Blog for all your news, notes and analysis from the Pats and around the NFL.
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