The Loaded Patriots Will Be Fun To Watch

If yesterday’s win over the Tennessee Titans is any indication, this Patriots season is going to be a fun one. The defense looks fast, the rookies look precocious, and Tom Brady does not look like he’s aged a day (seriously, if you know anyone who’s been making the “Tom Brady is getting old” argument lately, please gently bonk them on the head and them how silly they are). It all stands in such stark contrast to the Red Sox that I’m now going to spend 750 words making the most hackneyed comparisons between the two franchises that I can think of. Kidding! Guess who already did that.

But seriously, there’s nothing better than a season opening game where the new players shine. It’s like unwrapping a bunch of new gifts. Between the play of the rookies—first-round pick Chandler Jones’ strip sack leading to first-round pick Dont’a Hightower’s touchdown, plus second-round pick Tavon Wilson’s interception—and key free-agent pick-up Brandon Lloyd’s spectacular sideline catch, yesterday was like eight nights of Hanukkah crammed into a single Sunday afternoon.

The biggest revelation, though, was second year running back Stevan Ridley, who rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. The main thing, though, is that he looked fast, hitting the holes like lightning and breaking through for big gains even when you thought he had nowhere to go. Ridley had six runs yesterday of 10 yards or more, including two 17-yard gallops in the first half. By contrast, old friend BenJarvus Green-Ellis had just 13 rushes of over 10 yards all of last year. Whereas Green-Ellis was always reliable for a three-yard gain (and never fumbled), he just didn’t have the speed to break off big runs. Solid as he may have been, he simply was not exciting. Ridley is exciting.

Really, can you think of the last time the Patriots had a fast running back? Dating back to 1998, the Pats’ lead rushers have been Green-Ellis, Lawrence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Corey Dillon, Antowain Smith, Kevin Faulk, Terry Allen (!), and Robert Edwards. As good as Corey Dillon was, you’ve got to go all the way back to Curtis Martin in 1997 to find a guy with true breakaway ability. That was 15 years ago! Now, as Bill Belichick would say, it’s not like we need to start working on Ridley’s bust for Canton. It’s even ludicrously premature to assume that this will mean he’ll have an entire good season. It was just one game. But aren’t you excited to watch him in the next 15?