The Patriots made their hay early Sunday when they jumped out to a 24-3 lead against the Cincinnati Bengals en route to an easy win. So who did well and who didn’t? Patriots Insider’s Jon Scott and James Christensen share their Game Balls and their Goats.
Wes Welker -- Welker showed up to play in the team’s first drive. When many never thought that he would even play in this game, Welker disproves the naysayers by catching the first pass of the 2010 regular season pass and scoring the first Patriots touchdown. Welker finished with 8 catches for 64 yards and a pair of scores.
Defensive Pressure – Contrary to popular belief, the Patriots front seven were able to contain the Bengals ground game while still applying pressure on Carson Palmer. Holding Benson and co to under 100 yards was a big plus. Pressure led to bad throws and a Pick-6.
Special Teams – with the exception of the FG unit, the Patriots special teams won the battle of field position, as well as putting points up on the board. Brandon Tate’s 97-yard KO return for a TD was a big play. The containment on kickoffs kept the Bengals from good field position, ultimately helping the Offernse.
Gary Guyton – Nice undercut of the route covering Jermaine Gresham to pick off Carson Palmer. Guyton then took the ball 59 yards to put New England up 24-0 just when the Bengals looked like they were building some momentum on offense.
Patriots Offensive Line - The new-look offensive line took it easy on the laundry staff, keeping Tom Brady's jersey nearly sparkling white. They were also able to open some cracks and holes for Fred Taylor and company, leading to a team rushing average of over 5 yards per carry.
Bill O'Brien - After a tough 2009 season, Coach O'Brien had a great day as the offensive play-caller. He mixed it up the calls really well, with Brady throwing it 35 times and the Patriots rushing the ball 23 times.
Pat Chung - Twelve tackles on opening day is nothing to sneeze at. Chung hammered Bengals ball-carries all day, rarely allowing any meaningful yards after contact.
Ochocinco and TO at the half – Leaving early to get hydrated or get “looked at” are hardly good reasons to miss a Hail Mary pass Though Lewis deflected questions about the pair after the game, this could be the beginning of the type of distraction that keeps the Bengals from becoming a winning organization. The pair are all about individualism.
Stephen Gostkowski – His kickoffs were good as expected, but missing two field goals was not something Gostkowski is prone to doing. He’ll need to improve accuracy on those long attempts. Gost let the Bengals kicker set the record for longest FG at Gillette (54 yards). Had a chance to set a new record on his second miss from 56 yards out.
Second Half Defense – Hardly a goat, but still a negative. When the Patriots could have snuffed out drives to stop any hope Cincinnati had of a comebacker, the team pulled out that bend-don’t-break style of play again. The first half the defense kept Cincinnati ‘s offense to just 2 of 7 on third down, 156 net yards and just 3 points. The second half defense allowed and 6 of 8 third down conversions, 272 yards and 21 points.
James Sanders - Getting the start in place of Brandon Meriweather, Sanders had a rough day. His missed tackles and slow reactions in coverage have me questioning whether we will be seeing newly acquired safety Jarrad Page sooner, rather than later.
Stephen Gostkowski and Jake Ingram - It's a tough call to find another two "goats" after such an impressive win, but the duo of Gostkowski and Ingram have to shore things up on the placekicking. Zoltan Mesko twice had to reach for snaps, while Gostkowski's missing two long field goals isn't how you want to start a season. Gostkowski did redeem himself with powerful kickoffs, as the Bengals average starting field-position after kickoffs was only the 21 yard line.
Jon Scott covers the Patriots for Patriots Insider at Foxsports.com and i95 FM.
James Christensen runs NEPatriotsDraft.com and has joined Patriots Insider as a regular contributor