Patriots beat Titans 34-13, win opener for ninth straight season
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tom Brady might have a broken nose, about the only damage inflicted by the Tennessee Titans against the New England Patriots who simply don't lose season openers.
Brady threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and the defending AFC champion Patriots routed the Tennessee Titans 34-13 for their ninth straight season-opening win Sunday. It's the longest current streak in the league.
"I need some scars," Brady said, joking about the white bandage covering his nose and marring his usual look.
Titans defensive end Kamerion Wimbley hurt Brady in the second quarter when he got Tennessee's only sack of the game. Brady said that was the only good hit he took all day and complimented his revised offensive line featuring a new left tackle in Nate Solder, new center in Dan Connolly and right guard in Donald Thomas.
"It wasn't perfect by any stretch, but it's always fun to win," Brady said. "It's a good feeling."
The Patriots ruined Jake Locker's debut as Tennessee's starter, sacking him twice and forcing two turnovers. New England rookie Dont'a Hightower returned Locker's fumble 6 yards for a TD in his own debut, and Stevan Ridley ran for 125 yards and a TD.
New England even knocked Locker out of the game in the fourth quarter and held Chris Johnson to 4 yards on 11 carries.
"This is something that can be a backbone for us," Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. " To hold a great back to only 4 yards that was good defense."
Locker hurt his left shoulder tackling safety Patrick Chung on a fumble return officials should have whistled dead as an incomplete pass to Titans receiver Nate Washington, who also was hurt on the play. Matt Hasselbeck replaced Locker, who was kept on the sideline as a precaution.
The eighth pick overall in 2011 tried to talk his way back onto the field after being examined. Locker said he was sore but expects to play next week at San Diego. And he won't shy away from tackling in the future.
"I know I'm playing offense," Locker said. "I'm not going to let a guy run into the end zone."
The Titans weren't happy at the failure of the replacement officials on three different passes into the end zone they thought deserved flags for pass interference. Coach Mike Munchak said there always will be calls they believe are missed by officials.
The first came on the opening drive when Devin McCourty helped break up a pass to Damian Williams in the end zone. The second wound up an interception by Patriots rookie Tavon Wilson on a pass to Washington. The third came with Chung defending Jared Cook in the fourth quarter that left the Titans tight end pleading his case to an official.
Williams had an opinion on the lack of a flag, but refused to criticize the officials, who also needed replay to overturn the on-field ruling of an interception by McCourty in the third quarter that squirted out when he hit the ground.
The Titans even had former Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt on hand, not that she could help them stop or even slow Brady -- despite spending the offseason prepping for the teams' first meeting since being routed 59-0 in New England in October 2009.
Brady threw five TD passes in one quarter that day. He didn't match that Sunday, but didn't need to with Ridley providing plenty of help on the ground as the Patriots outgained Tennessee 390-284.
"They're going to make their share of plays, which we knew," Munchak said. "We just couldn't help them, and unfortunately along the way, we helped them."
The Titans couldn't match Brady's efficiency and had to settle twice for field goals of 28 and 24 yards by Rob Bironas. Locker did find Nate Washington on a 29-yard TD in the third quarter even with Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones grabbing the quarterback.
Brady missed connecting with Brandon Lloyd for a would-be TD on the opening drive. That was among his few misses.
He put the Patriots up 7-3 with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez late in the first quarter, capping a 67-yard drive. It was Brady's 301st career pass, surpassing John Elway for fifth in TD passes in NFL history. It also marked his 33rd straight game with a TD pass. He found Rob Gronkowski on a 2-yard TD pass just before halftime for a 21-3 lead.
The Patriots' work boosting their defense through the draft showed early dividends. Jones sacked Locker and forced a fumble that Hightower ran in for a 14-3 lead in the second quarter.
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