Published September 09, 2012
| Sports Network
Nashville, TN – Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes, Stevan Ridley rushed for a career-high 125 yards with one score and the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots opened their season with a 34-13 win over the Tennessee Titans at LP Field.
Brady had 236 yards on 23-of-31 passing for New England (1-0), which got two fourth-quarter field goals from Stephen Gostkowski.
"It wasn't a perfect game by any stretch, but it's always fun winning," Brady said.
Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker connected on 23-of-32 passes for 229 yards with one touchdown and one interception before leaving his first NFL start in the fourth quarter with an apparent shoulder injury.
Locker, the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft, and wide receiver Nate Washington were hurt on the same play, one that was eventually overturned.
Washington was sandwiched by New England rookie safety Tavon Wilson and linebacker Jerod Mayo on a pass deep down the middle of the field. The ball came out following the nasty collision.
Locker then grabbed at his left shoulder after tackling safety Patrick Chung, who recovered the fumble and made the return. The ruling of a reception was reversed via a replay review.
Matt Hasselbeck replaced Locker and guided the Titans to a 24-yard Rob Bironas field goal.
Chris Johnson had only four yards on 11 carries for the Titans (0-1), who won nine games last season, Mike Munchak's first as head coach. Tennessee finished a game behind Houston, the AFC South champs, and missed a wild-card spot on a tiebreaker.
"I can't say what New England was doing, but we didn't execute as a team," Johnson said. "We had some nice catches, but overall a tough day."
The Titans got the ball to begin the game and Locker completed his first pass as a starter, hooking up with wide receiver Kendall Wright, a 2012 first-round pick, for a 17-yard gain on 3rd-and-7 from the Tennessee 23.
Locker guided the offense into New England territory, where the unit faced a 4th-and-short from the 37-yard line. Lined up in the shotgun, Locker moved the chains with a 24-yard completion to Washington.
The second-year quarterback out of Washington connected on his first four throws before a missed pass interference call on third down forced the Titans to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Bironas.
On the disputed play, New England cornerback Devin McCourty, whose twin brother Jason plays for Tennessee, had his backed turn as he bumped into wideout Damian Williams in the end zone prior to the ball arriving from Locker.
The Patriots' star-studded offense nearly struck on their first possession. Brady, though, overthrew new deep threat Brandon Lloyd on a fake end-around, and New England wound up punting. But on their next series, the Patriots reached the end zone as Brady found tight end Aaron Hernandez for a 23-yard touchdown with 1:59 remaining in the first quarter.
New England was 31st in total defense last year and looked to improve the outfit through the draft. The rookies made an immediate impact on Sunday. Wilson, a second-round selection, hauled in a deflected ball in the end zone for his first career interception.
Locker threw a deep pass intended for Washington and the ball caromed off Kyle Arrington. Wilson tripped over the fallen receiver, but still managed to secure the ball before diving on the turf.
The Patriots couldn't capitalize on the turnover, but a Zoltan Mesko punt pinned the Titans at their own 10-yard line. On third down, New England's two first-round picks combined for a defensive score. Defensive end Chandler Jones hit Locker near the goal line, forcing a fumble that linebacker Dont'a Hightower, taken four picks after Jones at No. 25, returned for a six-yard touchdown.
Brady, who suffered a bloody nose on the previous possession, then led New England on a 67-yard drive, capping the 12-play march with a two-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski set NFL records for tight ends with 1,327 yards and 17 receiving touchdowns last season.
The Titans moved the ball smoothly on their first second-half series. They went 80 yards in just 90 seconds and Washington finished the four-play drive with a 29-yard TD grab.
New England then took advantage of a short field and Ridley's one-yard TD made it a 28-10 game late in the third quarter. The Patriots had started from the Tennessee 48-yard line following a punt.
The Patriots have won nine straight season openers, the longest active streak in the NFL ... Brady (302) moved past John Elway and into sole possession of fifth place on the NFL's all-time touchdown list ... Brady (125) also moved into sole possession of fifth place for most career wins as a starting quarterback. He entered the season tied with Fran Tarkenton ... Brady became the 14th player in NFL history to reach 40,000 career passing yards ... New England wide receiver Wes Welker caught three passes -- for just 14 yards -- and tied Troy Brown as the franchise leader in receptions with 557 ... Bironas has converted 17 consecutive field goals.