BOSTON (CBS) – Here are some of my leftover thoughts from the Patriots season-opening win over the Titans.
The task defensively going into Sunday’s game was to stop Chris Johnson. That was first and foremost on the Patriots check list, and the defense did just that. They held the Pro Bowl running back to just four yards on 11 carries — the lowest total of his NFL career.
“Today, we responded well against the run. I think throughout the preseason we showed improvement each week,” said nose-tackle Vince Wilfork. “And this is something that I think can be a backbone for us. If we can go into a game and just get teams one-dimensional, that’ll help us tremendously, and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
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Wilfork, who was just a beast in the middle of the Patriots line on Sunday, said he was able to do his job so well because the coaches put him in great positions to do so and his teammates were doing their jobs as well.
He said all of that helped stop the Titans when they were knocking on the goal line in the fourth quarter. Wilfork came up with a huge stuff of Johnson on first-and-goal — pushing him back for a five-yard loss — and the Titans couldn’t convert the next three downs.
“That’s one thing that we went through this week, knowing tendencies down there, and that was perfect play calling. I can’t really take credit for that, that was the play calling,” said Wilfork. “Perfect play calling on defense, putting me in position to make that play. If the other ten guys didn’t do their job, it probably wouldn’t have been a problem also. I know I made the tackle, but my teammates, the other 10 guys and it was definitely the coaches that put me in that situation to make that play.”
There are still issues in the secondary, but it’s good to see the run defense is as dominant as last season.
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Tom Brady took the podium and he didn’t look like some one who just came out on the winning team. He wasn’t sure if his nose was broken but he said he didn’t think so. With bandage on, he took questions from the media and sang the praises of his defensive unit.
“I tell you, they’ve been playing like that all preseason, the defense. We see them in practice every day. They’re very competitive, they’re competitive on the outside, they rush the quarterback, get turnovers, they do a good job covering backs out of the backfield,” said Brady. “It was a lot of team defense out there, and I thought the special teams really complemented what we’re doing. It was very much a team win.”
Brady was also a fan of the new-found rushing aspect in the offense, courtesy of Stevan Ridley’s legs.
“I think it’s something we’ve been doing all season long, all through minicamp, training camp, regular season games. We made a commitment to running the football and it’s a lot carries by the backs, they have a lot of opportunity,” he said. “When you can control the tempo of the game with running the ball, it really helps out the rest of the team. It helps special teams, it helps defense, I’m not sure what the time of possession was, but it obviously helps that as well. You just can’t drop back and throw it 50 times a game. If we’re around 35 passes a game, that’s where you want to be.”
Speaking Of Ridley…
The second-year back was asked all preseason if he was ready to be the Patriots feature back. He responded with an emphatic “YES” on Sunday thanks to his strong performance: 21 carries for 125 yards and no fumbles.
That is as good as anyone could have imagined, and Ridley thought the play-calling was right on.
“The coaches just did an exceptional job of finding the ones that were doing well and they just kept calling them until they stopped them,” Ridley explained. “The offensive line was just blocking and getting on people. There was bodies on bodies and I just had to hit my creases and run. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. I was just the player that I was and out there playing ball.”
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He kept his comments modest and they were echoed by the coach.
“It always starts up front. The offensive line did a good job. We had some good holes, the backs ran hard,” said coach Bill Belichick. “Stevan ran hard, broke some tackles. Our tight ends, our offensive line and our receivers blocked so it was good. A good complimentary game. We had good balance offensively.
“We can’t be satisfied. I’m not satisfied,” Ridley said. “I’m going to enjoy this win today and the game that I had today but we have to get back to work on Monday.”
Follow Levan Reid on CBSBostonsports.com and on Twitter @LevanReid all Patriots’ season long!