By: Derek Havens
For many spectators around the league, the New England Patriots season opener would act as a measuring stick for the 2010 season. The team passed with flying colors in a 38 – 24 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. The team put on an impressive display in all three phases of the game; offense, defense, special teams. Here is my teams report card for week 1.
Offense Grade: A –
The offense looked potent and balanced throughout the game. Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, and Sammy Morris toted the rock as Laurence Maroney sat out with a thigh injury. Fred Taylor did most of the running and looked fresh; if his production can stay at the same level, the offense really opens up.
Tom Brady proved yet again why he deserves to be the highest paid player in the NFL Sunday. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
Wes Welker was the story of the day however. He was all over the field, back to his usual slot machine self totaling a team high 8 receptions and two touchdowns. Everyone seemed to play a role in the offense and the play calling overall was absolutely superb. Tom Brady had a fantastic game, throwing three touch down passes; proving yet again, why he deserves to be the highest paid player in the NFL. I believe that the optimism Patriots fans had about the offense is legitimate.
Special Teams Grade: A
Special teams played a large role in the game as well. The only real disappointments were two missed field goal attempts by Stephen Gostkowski. As many fans saw in the pre-season, the returns were fantastic. That continued today as Brandon Tate had an excellent return to start the second half. I thought that was the best way to continue the momentum that the team created from the beginning of the game. The kick coverage was also great and this phase of the game should not be overlooked.
Defense Grade: A
This unit played outstanding. Honestly, I do not think they could have started the year much better. This grade could have been an A+ but, they did ease up in the 3rd quarter and I would have loved to see them finish stronger, but thankfully that job was left to the offense.
Defensively, the team looked fast, fans have heard that the team was younger, but had not really seen the affects of that youth. I thought the team had excellent speed and tackled very well. There are lots to feel positive about on defense, especially the play of the young defensive backs in Darius Butler and Devin McCourty. Patrick Chung seemed to be in on every tackle, flying all over the field. Their overall play has to shed some light on the future.
One aspect I did want to mention though was communication. The team seemed to be talking and was active during the game. This is a Bengals offense with a lot of weapons, and to hold them in check as the Patriots did for most of the day Sunday, says a lot about this young unit moving forward.
Overall Game Grade: A
There were tons of positives to pull away from the opening weekend victory. In all three phases the Patriots were sharp. Many thought the Patriots would regress this year while some seemed to think they were an under-the-radar threat. New England showed they could handle a very good Bengals team with relative ease in week one and now face the division rival New York Jets in week 2. The camaraderie of the players also caught my eye and I enjoyed watching the team play at a high level while having fun. That is an aspect should not to be overlooked.
Overall, a great way to kick-off the NFL season and the Patriots certainly made a statement.