Early season rust? Forget about it. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots performed like a well-oiled machine throughout the majority of their season opener against the Tennessee Titans, coming away with a 34-13 win Sunday afternoon at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee.
After surrendering a field goal (Rob Bironas from 28 yards out) with 8:47 left in the opening quarter, New England's offense went on a roll and scored 21 unanswered points to bring an 18-point lead into halftime. Tennessee's offense picked up in the second half, with the Titans scoring 10 points, but New England was able to maintain its distance and notch its first win.
New England's offense came up empty on its first drive, which featured a touchdown drop by new wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (five catches, 69 receiving yards) on a deep ball from Brady (23-for-21, 236 yards, two touchdowns), but Brady led the Pats on a 67-yard drive late in the first, culminating in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Brady and Aaron Hernandez.
Brady reached a couple of milestones in the first quarter, topping 40,000 passing yards in his career and moving into fifth place on the NFL's all-time touchdown list with his 301st passing score (to Hernandez), jumping ahead of John Elway (not bad for one quarter, huh?).
The Pats' second touchdown came on defense, with rookies Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower teaming up to force a fumble and recover it for the score. Jones forced the fumble from Titans quarterback Jake Locker (23-for-32, 229 passing yards, one touchdowns) in his own end zone and Hightower picked it for the score at 11:16 of the second quarter. At the other end of the quarter, Brady again led the Patriots on a 67 yard drive and found Rob Gronkowski (six catches, 60 receiving yards) for a two-yard score.
Tennessee's offense was able to heat up at the start of the third quarter as Locker led his troops downfield on an 80-yard drive before throwing a 29-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington at 10:25, cutting the Titans' deficit to 11 points. New England canceled out that score at the end of the quarter, when Stevan Ridley (who topped 100-yards on the drive and finished with a career-high 125 rushing yards) punched it in from one yard out.
Bironas made another field goal from 24 yards out with 9:20 remaining, but two field goals from Stephen Gostkowski (25 yards at 4:19 and 31 yards at 0:35) sealed the deal.
Matt Hasselbeck, the Boston College alum and former Seattle Seahawks quarterback, replaced Locker after a left shoulder injury in the second half and completed 6-of-11 passes for 43 yards. Chris Johnson, the Titan's star running back, was held to four yards on 11 carries. Jared Cook lead the Tennessee receivers with 64 yards on four receptions.
New England heads home to Gillette Stadium to face the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday.