It couldn’t have started off any better.
The Patriots finished their opening drive with a 9-yard screen pass to Wes Welker, who slid between two great blocks and tumbled into the end zone for a touchdown. It was emotional moment less than 8 months after Welker had surgery to repair his mangled knee. We all remember watching his leg buckle in the last game of Welker’s record setting 2009 regular season. And of course we all remember how the deflated Pats got rolled on in the first game of the playoffs after losing arguably the best player on the team last year. After working out in the off-season with Tom Brady, who successfully recovered from a similar injury, Welker defied all odds and was able to play in the regular season opener. Tom Brady even called Welker the toughest player he has ever played with during camp this year. What a reward for a guy with so much heart and determination. He is smaller than your average male fan in the seats at Foxboro; but he has the biggest heart of anyone on the field.
Incredibly, Welker caught another TD pass in the 2nd quarter. It would be hard to imagine a better comeback for the star wideout.
The rest of the team looked pretty good, too.
This game was never even close. Tom Brady looks like he and Welker are on a mission from God to win the Superbowl in what may be the last season before an NFL lockout. Brady completed 66% of his passes for 258 yards, 3 TDs and 0 mistakes. Brady was flawless and looked as confident in the pocket as ever.
The biggest question mark coming into this season appears to have morphed into an exclamation point.
The Pats young defense was flying all over the field shutting down the high-powered Bengals attack. Rookie Corner Devin McCourty broke up a pass to Terrell Owens on his first snap in the NFL. Gary Guyton picked off a pass in Patriots territory and muscled by a feigning Carson Palmer on the way to the house for a 59 yard return for the score. This defense is better than anyone thought, and they are beginning to find a happy medium between youth and experience.
Second year WR Brandon Tate started off the second half with a 97-yard kickoff return for a TD with a couple of cuts and a lightening quick burst of speed up the middle. Look for Tate to make an impact this year after missing nearly all of his rookie season last year due to injury.
The Patriots looked good. Scary good. The critics have been silenced. This team is still dominant.