Scene setter: Patriots-Titans
|09.09.12 at 11:48 am ET|
The Patriots begin their hopeful trek back to the Super Bowl in Music City where sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70s are expected for the 1 p.m. kickoff.
The Patriots have won eight straight season openers, the longest streak in the NFL. The Packers have the second longest active streak with five straight opening day wins. If the Patriots win today, they would join an exclusive group that includes the Cowboys (17 straight), Dolphins (11), Portsmouth/Detroit (10) and Bears (9).
Before the streak, the Patriots were 20-24 in openers. They are now 28-24 but still only 9-12 in openers on the road. The last time the Patriots lost an opener on the road was the infamous “Lawyer Milloy Game” when the popular safety was cut the week before the first game. The Bills shut out the Patriots, 31-0, in Orchard Park on Sept. 7, 2003.
There will be several rookies in the spotlight today for the Patriots as first rounders Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower are expected to start on defense for Bill Belichick‘s group.
The other big storyline coming in is the match-up between the McCourty twins as New England’s Devin and Tennessee’s Jason are on the same NFL field for the first time.
“I told him to lose my cell phone number,” Devin McCourty told reporters this week. “There’ll be time to catch up afterward.”
The Titans certainly the remember the last meeting between the two teams. During a freak pre-Halloween snow storm on Oct. 18, 2009, the Patriots put up a record 59 points in a 59-0 win over Tennessee, a game that saw the Patriots match an NFL record with 35 points in the second quarter.
On that day, Tom Brady massacred the Titans’ 31st-ranked pass defense. Playing in the rain and snow, Brady completed 19 of his first 20 passes, displaying deadly accuracy on the long ball. Brady finished 29 of 34 with 380 yards and tied a career-high with six touchdowns before he was replaced by rookie QB Brian Hoyer on New England’s second drive in the third quarter.
Belichick is beginning his 13th year as head coach of the Patriots. He is the first coach in NFL history with 13 or more wins in five different seasons, coming off a 13-3 season in 2011.
By contrast, Mike Munchak is in his second year in Tennessee after taking over for Jeff Fisher. Munchak will start Jake Locker at quarterback as the second-year signal-caller out of Washington will get his first NFL start. Matt Hasselbeck will be his back-up.
Locker will not have one of his key weapons at his disposal as wide receiver Kenny Britt is serving a one-game NFL suspension for a driving under the influence charge this summer, his eighth run-in with the law in his career. First-round draft pick Kendall Wright is in the lineup Sunday with Britt suspended. Wright was the 20th pick overall out of Baylor, while Martin was their third-round selection out of Michigan.
The Titans have scratched defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, and rookie Mike Martin will start in his place.
Tennessee also deactivated backup running back Javon Ringer. He was added to the injury report Saturday night with an ailing elbow. Quarterback Rusty Smith, linebacker Zac Diles, offensive tackles Mike Otto and Byron Stingily and defensive end Pannel Egboh also were inactive.