Ryan L. Fox
Ten years ago, the New England Patriots hosted a wildcard match-up against the Baltimore Ravens. But instead of moving on, the Patriots were absolutely obliterated by the visiting Ravens on the final score of 33-14. Fast forward to Saturday night, the Patriots were hosting Wildcard Weekend at Gillette Stadium. This time around, it was against the Tennessee Titans.
On a cold, wet, and misty night in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the Patriots and the Titans slogged it out. But when the final gun sounded, there was almost a hush throughout the stadium. After so many years of success, it seemed that the curtain had final closed on what was considered to most powerful sports dynasty not only in Boston sports history but in NFL history as well.
The Titans won the opening coin toss but elected to defer to the 2nd half, giving the Patriots the ball to start off the game.
Titans K Greg Joseph booted the ball out of the back of the endzone, giving the Patriots the ball at their own 25.
QB Tom Brady and the offense took to the field for the first time of the game as the QB was greeted with adoration and a chanting crowd. After an incompletion on both 1st and 2nd down, Brady found TE Ben Watson over the left side for 21-yards down to the New England 46. Brady then followed that up with a dump off pass to RB James White for 29-yards down to the Tennessee 25.
After an incompletion on 1st down, RB Sony Michel bowled his way over the right guard for 7-yards to the Tennessee 18. But on 3rd and short, Brady’s pass to WR N’Keal Harry went incomplete. K Nick Folk then came on to attempt the 36-yard field goal. The ball just squeaked through as the Patriots scored the first points of the game, taking an early 3-0 lead with 12:37 left in the 1st quarter.
P Jake Bailey then booted the ensuing kickoff into the back of the endzone, giving the Titans their first possession of the game at their own 25.
On their first play, QB Ryan Tannehill found TE Jonnu Smith for a quick catch-and-run for 9-yards to the Tennessee 34. Then the Titans went to the ground attack for 6 out of the next 8 plays. RB Derrick Henry carried the rock 6 times for 44 yards during that span as the Titans got all the way down to the New England 12. A false start penalty and then offsetting penalties made it 1st and 15 from the New England 17. An incompletion and a 5-yard run by Henry then made it 3rd and 10 from the New England 12. Tannehill then dropped back as he found TE Anthony Firkser in the endzone for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Joseph booted the PAT through the uprights as the Titans took an early 7-3 lead with 5:39 left in the 1st quarter.
After letting the ensuing kickoff go in the back of the endzone for the touchback, the Patriots offense went back onto the field.
Following a 1-yard loss by RB Rex Burkhead on 1st down, Brady found WR Mohammed Sanu over the middle for an 11-yard pass. Michel then followed up that up with a 25-yard run down to the Tennessee 40. Two plays later, Brady found Watson over the middle for 11-yards down to the Tennessee 29 and then proceeded to follow that up with a 9-yard pass to Burkhead to the Tennessee 20. The Patriots then went to the ground game over the next two plays before getting down to the Tennessee 7. A quick 5-yard pass from Brady to Michel put the ball at the Tennessee 5 as the 1st quarter ended.
When the 2nd quarter began, the Patriots had the ball at the Tennessee 5. On the first play in the 2nd quarter, WR Julian Edelman took the jet sweep and went untouched 5 yards into the endzone. Folk booted the extra point through the uprights as the Patriots regained the lead 10-7 with 14:57 left in the 2nd quarter.
After that, the two teams the began to exchange punts with another.
However, on the last exchange, Sanu caught the ball at his own 29 and was able to return it 24-yards to the Tennessee 47.
With great field position, the Patriots offense took to the field. Michel opened up the drive with an 11-yard run to the Tennessee 36. Following an incompletion on 1st down, Burkhead carried the ball for 4-yards and then Brady found Harry for 7-yards and the 1st down at the Tennessee 25. The Patriots then got a 12-yard run by Michel and then a 12-yard catch-and-run by Burkhead before facing 1st and goal at the Tennessee 1.
On 1st and goal, the Titans defense stuffed Michel for a loss of 1-yard to the Titans. Then on 2nd and goal, Burkhead got the ball back to the 1-yard line. Facing a 3rd and goal at the 1, the Patriots tried to go to the ground one more time. But the Titans defense burst through and stuffed Michel for a 2-yard loss back to the Tennessee 3. Folk then came on for the 21-yard attempt, booting the ball through the uprights to give the Patriots a 13-7 lead with 2:16 left in the 2nd quarter.
After the kickoff went into the endzone, the Titans got the ball back at their own 25. Henry opened the Titans’ drive up with a 29-yard run to the New England 46 before the 2-minute warning. After the 2-minute warning, Tannehill missed on a pass to Smith over the right side. Then the Titans went back to Henry. Henry proceeded to carry the ball 3 more times for 23 yards down to the New England 23. Then on 1st and 10, Tannehill dumped a pass off to Henry, who rumbled down the left side all the way down to the New England 1. On 1st and goal at the 1, the Titans relied on their star running back, who bowled his way over the goalline for the touchdown. Joseph booted the PAT through the uprights to give the Titans a 14-13 lead with 35 seconds left in the quarter.
Rather than run the clock out at the end of the half, the Patriots tried to make a final score before going into the half.
Starting from their own 25 (after the ensuing kickoff went into the back of the endzone), Brady found White for 9-yards to the New England 34. That was followed up with a 6-yard pass to Watson to the New England 40. After 2 straight incompletions (including a drop interception by Titans CB Logan Ryan that would have gone for a Pick 6), Brady found White for an 8-yard pass to the New England 48 as White ducked out of bounds before the 1st down. With 6 seconds left in the quarter, Brady tried a Hail Mary pass into the endzone, but the ball was knocked down.
Both teams went into the half as the score was 14-13, favoring the visiting Titans.
The 3rd quarter then began as both teams simply traded punts with one another for the entire 3rd quarter. Both teams could not hold establish a sustainable drive as each defense was able to stymie the opposition’s offense.
The Titans ended up with the ball to close out the 3rd quarter.
But when the 4th quarter opened up, Tannehill was picked off by Patriots S Duron Harmon at the New England 41 on the first play of the quarter. But even with the pick and the good field position, the Patriots could not move the ball on the Titans defense and were forced to punt yet again.
The Titans got ball on their own 20 after the previous punt went into the endzone for a touchback. Henry carried the ball on back-to-back run plays to open up the drive, getting the ball up to the Tennessee 25. Faced with a 3rd and 5, Tannehill found RB Dion Lewis over the left side for an 8-yard gain and a 1st down at the Tennessee 33. The Titans offense then began to move the ball with more success than they did in the entire 3rd quarter. They continued to pound the Patriots on the ground, moving the ball methodically down the field to the New England 34. But on 3rd and 3 from the New England 34, Tannehill bobbled the snap and fumbled. Luckily, Henry was able to pounce on the football at the New England 36 for the Titans the ball.
Instead of going for it on 4th down or kicking what would have been about a 53-yard field goal try, the Titans decided to punt the ball.
But instead of punting the ball right away, Titans coach Mike Vrabel decided to run the play clock all the way down to 0 and take a delay of game penalty. Then on the ensuing play, the Titans deliberately committed a false start penalty to not only back them up but run more time off the clock.
The reason why the Titans were doing that was because they were exploiting a loophole within the rules. Prior to the 5-minute mark in the quarter, if a team committed a delay of game penalty or a false start penalty then the game clock would start back up once the play cock started ticking off. However, after the 5-minute mark, if the punt team the tried to deliberately commit a delay of game, the game clock would start running again on the ball being snapped.
Vrabel nearly ran off 2 minutes with that little stunt before finally punting the ball away to the New England 11.
The two teams then again traded punts with one another as the clock in the 4th quarter continued to tick away.
Seeing their chances of repeating dwindle and dissolve into the night sky, the Patriots tried to rush the punter and block a punt. But Titans P Brett Kern was able to punt the ball away before it could have been blocked. The ball ended up bouncing and rolling all the way down to the New England 1.
With 15 seconds left in the game and needing to get into field goal position during that span, Brady led the offense back out onto the field for one last attempt at a comeback. But on the first play, Brady’s pass to Sanu bounced off the wideout and into the arms of Titans CB Logan Ryan. This time, Ryan was able to successfully hold onto the ball as he ran the ball back into the endzone for the Pick 6 to make it 20-13. Rather than kick the PAT, the Titans elected to go for the 2-point conversion. Henry ended up getting stuffed before crossing the goalline as the score was 20-13 with 9 seconds left in the game.
The Patriots tried one last desperation attempt to try and tie the game on a big play on the during kickoff. But they ended up fumbling the ball away as it was recovered by the Titans at the New England 4 as the clock reached all zeroes.
When the clock read 00:00, the Titans came onto the field and began to celebrate with one another. They had defeated the defending world champions on the final score of 20-13.
There was a feeling of shock and disbelief among Patriots fans as they saw their team lose at home to what they believed was an inferior opponent. Then there was the notion that this could have been Brady’s last home game in a Patriots uniform.
Now with the early exit from the playoffs, the Patriots will be traversing into unknown waters in the 2020 NFL offseason. Who will be playing under center for them? Will more coaches and assistant coaches leave the organization for ‘greener pastures’? What will the team look like in the 2020 season with so many contracts of older players expiring? These are just a few questions that the Patriots will be dealing with
After 20 years of excellence and forging a dynasty that will never be matched in NFL history, the clock has finally struck midnight. The Patriots dynasty is dead. Long live the king…
Patriot Statistical Standouts
RB Sony Michel: 14 carries for 61 yards (4.4 yards per carry), 2 catches (on 2 targets) for 9 yards
RB James White: 1 carries for 14 yards (14.0 yards per carry), 5 catches (on 5 targets) for 62 yards
K Nick Folk: 2-for-2 on FG, 1-for-1 on XP for a total of 7 points
P Jake Bailey: 5 punts for 230 yards (46.0 avg), 2 punts inside the 20, 2 touchbacks
LB Dont’a Hightower: 9 tackles (8 solo, 1 assist)
LB Kyle Van Noy: 5 tackles (4 solo, 1 assist), 1.0 sacks
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
.833 – The winning percentage of QB Tom Brady playing at Gillette Stadium during the playoffs (20-4) as a member of the Patriots
3,268 – The number of days between the last time K Nick Folk attempted a field goal in a playoff game and tonight’s game
43 – The number of playoff games that coach Bill Belichick has coached in, extending his current NFL record
41 – The number of playoff games that QB Tom Brady has started in, extending his current NFL record
1:46 – The amount of time (minutes: seconds) Titans coach Mike Vrabel ran off the clock with those multiple penalties on 4th down (delay of games, false starts) before the Titans ultimately punted the ball
182 – The number of rushing yards that Titans RB Derrick Henry had for the game, a franchise record
38.4 – The conversion percentage of the New England Patriots for the entire game (5-for-13)
59.4 – The QB rating for Tom Brady for the game, the 5th worst QB rating in his postseason career
4 – The career number of postseason interceptions Patriots S Duron Harmon has, tying him Hall of Fame CB Ty Law for 3rd all-time in franchise history
Interesting Tidbits of the Game
- After today’s game, coach Bill Belichick is now 14-14 (regular and postseason combined) versus former Patriot players and assistants that became head coaches on other NFL teams
- In 7 combined regular and postseason games at Gillette Stadium in his career, Titans QB Ryan Tannehill has thrown at least 1 interception
- The Tennessee Titans had a total of 71 net passing yards for the entire game. That was the lowest amount of passing yards by a playoff team since the 2009 AFC Wildcard where the Baltimore Ravens had 34 net passing yards in their game against the New England Patriots
-With the loss against the Titans, the Patriots have now dropped to 2-2 when playing on Wildcard Weekend during the Brady-Belichick Era. It is also their 2nd consecutive Wildcard loss as well
-Brady’s career numbers in the Wildcard round are as followed: 80-for-140 (57.14% completion) for 776 yards, 7 TDs, and 4 INTs for a QB rating of 77.6
-This was the 5th time that the Patriots have allowed an opponent to score 20 points or more in a game in the 2019 season, making them 0-5 in those situations
-With his rushing touchdown in the 2nd quarter, WR Julian Edelman has become the 4th player during the Super Bowl Era to have a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown, and a touchdown pass in the postseason
Fox Fist Bump
No Fox Fist Bumps this week to the Patriots at all this week. None. Nada. Zip!
Instead, Fox Fist Bumps for the Titans.
Let’s see. How about a Fox Fist Bump to Titans RB Derrick Henry. The man set a franchise record (yes…yes this includes Houston Oilers too) for most rushing yards in a single playoff game with 182 yards on 34 carries. He ran hard, he ran fast, he ran with authority. Everybody in Gillette knew that Henry was going to get the ball but he still totted the rock for over 5 yards per carry (5.4 yards to be exact).
How about a Fox Fist Bump to the Titans defense, especially on that goalline stand in the 2nd quarter. 1st and goal on the 1 and they held the Patriots out of the endzone. It was just magnificent. Not to mention that they held their ground after when Tannehill threw that interception in the 4th quarter and forced the Patriots to punt. And that game-clinching Pick 6 literally had me screaming ‘OH MY GOD!’ out loud.
And also, a big Fox Fist Bump and a football hug to Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. How sweet was it for him to come into Gillette and outcoach Bill Belichick.
Yes, you read that right.
Vrabel. Outcoached. Belichick.
Vrabel came into Gillette with a game plan and stuck by it no matter what. Even when he got down late in the 2nd quarter or that 4th quarter Tannehill interception, Vrabel kept his cool and didn’t panic. He got his team motivated for the game including preventing anybody from giving the Patriots bulletin board material (unlike a certain Patriots LB). But what sold it for me was late in the 4th quarter, he was able to run 1 minute and 46 seconds off the clock by that ‘delay of game penalty’ loophole. That was taken right out of the Bill Belichick playbook and it was just glorious.
The Meatball of the Week
Strap yourself in fellows, this is gonna get ugly!
I will admit, I originally wanted to give a meatball to Patriots QB Tom Brady for his struggles for the game but I won’t. The Titans defense played him tough so he gets a pass.
First, a giant meatball to the Patriots defense. Holy crap did they got exposed! They got gashed by the Titans so bad, it wasn’t even funny. They allowed the Titans to run for 200 yards on 40 carries, with 182 of those yards coming from just Derrick Henry alone. They were a product of a pancake schedule full of weak teams.
Next you have offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Wow. Just wow. Just unimaginative play calling from the guy for nearly the entire game. The only time anything actually worked was that end around by Edelman in the 2nd quarter for the touchdown but that was due to trickery (i.e. Brady purposely yelling at Edelman to get into position, which caused the Titans to react a bit). But the biggest sin was having the ball 1st and goal at the Tennessee 1 and calling 3 straight running plays to the same side. That ultimately cost the Patriots the game right then and there.
Yup, a guy that everybody dubbed as an ‘offensive genius’ decided to run the to the same side 3 times in a row.
Next you have LB Kyle Van Noy. It’s not for what he did during the game but rather before the game. Earlier in the week, Van Noy ran his mouth (like he always does) about how the Patriots were going to go on a ‘Revenge Tour’ in the postseason, starting with the Tennessee Titans (the Titans destroyed the Patriots last year in Week 10 of the regular season). That ended up blowing up in his face big time as then it came out afterwards that the Titans used Kyle Van Noy's as bulletin board material. Hmm...imagine that. Van Noy, a player who kept trying to find any sort of bulletin board material to use to rally his team, provided his opponent with bulletin board material of their own and they used that to beat the Patriots. Oh how deliciously ironic that was.
Finally, we have head coach Bill Belichick.
In the 4th quarter, you had that situation where the Titans purposely committed penalties on 4th down to drain the clock. During the that moment, they had a simultaneous view of both sidelines where Vrabel was calm and collective on the Titans sideline but on the Patriots sidelines, Belichick was cursing up a storm and yelling at the refs.
Apparently, Bill was complaining about what was going on, even though he pulled the exact same tactic against the Jets earlier in the year on Monday Night Football (that’s where that picture of Bill with a smug smirk on his face came from). Kind of hypocritical to be using one loophole against one team one week but then complain to the refs because it is being used against you in another week.
Play of the Game
The King is Dead
Long Live the King
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