by Mark Beauchamp, Contributing Writer and Loyal Pats Fan
The New England Patriots quest for that elusive fourth Super Bowl ring kicked off in nearly perfect fashion with a workman like 34-13 dispatching of the host Tennessee Titans in Nashville last Sunday.
The Pats are set to host the Arizona Cardinals in their home opener this Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA.
There was plenty to love about the opening day victory in Tennessee for coach Bill Belichick and Patriots fans. As we’ve come to expect, Tom Brady was exceptional completing 23 of 31 pass attempts for 236 yards and two touchdowns with no picks. Brady connected for first half touchdown tosses to tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski in a scene likely to be repeated early and often this season. The Pats finally delivered a viable ground attack to compliment their aerial attack as running back Stevan Ridley kicked off his sophomore campaign with a very encouraging performance lugging the rock 21 times for 125 yards and a touchdown.
Things were equally as impressive on the defensive side of the ball. The new and improved Pat’s D looked solid turning in a stout all around effort. Titan running back Chris Johnson (aka CJ2K) was held to 4 yards on 11 carries leaving him only 1,996 yards of a second 2,000 yard season. Rookie first-rounders Chandler Jones (#95 defensive end, Syracuse) and Dont’A Hightower (# 54 linebacker, Alabama) teamed up on the defensive play of the game when Hightower recovered a fumble created by a Jones strip sack of Titan QB Jake Locker and returned it 6 yards for touchdown. You gotta watch these kids – they look like the real deal and they have the potential to be real difference makers.
It seems the only things that went wrong on Sunday was The Gronk fumbling his signature spike after his TD reception and Brady getting his nose bloodied crawling from the wreckage of the Titans lone sack of the day.
The boys in Vegas have set the Pats as big favorites over Arizona at home on Sunday and Pats fans are expecting a huge win . But I think the Cardinals are sneaky kind of good. They have all word wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald who is a real beast. Starting Cardinal QB John Skelton is out with an injury leaving backup Kevin Kolb under center. Some think Kolb is an upgrade over of Skelton. Kolb can get the ball down the field, he’s a mobile QB who can get outside of the pocket and make things happen. Arizona brings a fast and physical defense and they are one of the hottest teams in the NFL with 8 wins in their last 10 games dating back to last season. It’s the NFL – every game is tough.
This will be an extra special home opener in New England as retired wide receiver Troy Brown will be inducted to the Patriots Hall of Fame. Brown was a player and a person who embodied the so called Patriot Way. Brown always put team goals ahead or personal goals. He was always an underdog competing for a spot on the roster with bigger, faster players. But Brown’s heart and perseverance allowed him to overcome his physical limitations to develop into Pro Bowl player. He is in the record book among the top receivers and punt returners in team history and he even played on the defensive side of the ball. There are so many memorable Troy Brown moments. My favorite came during a 2007 playoff game in San Diego against the Super Fraud Super Chargers. Brady threw a critical fourth quarter interception with the Chargers leading, 21-13.
However, while making the tackle on the interception return Brown stripped the ball away creating a fumble recovered by the Patriots. San Diego’s defense was unable to stop New England on the drive that followed, and the Patriots scored a touchdown and a two point conversion to tie the game at 21. The Patriots eventually won, 24-21.
This week the Foxboro Tailgate scene will be in full effect. I can smell the steak tips, kielbasa and peperoncini already. The Buds will be on ice and the Macanudos are locked and loaded. Pats fans know what to do – Get Lubed Up, Be A Factor, Make It Home Alive and Have Fun Doing It. Give it up for # 80.
Go Pats Go.
(RELATED: Heading to the game? Check out Fanzooloo’s Patriots page for tickets and stadium info!)