Ryan L. Fox
Playoff football has begun over at Foxborough, Massachusetts. The New England Patriots continued their journey to defend their title as well got for Super Bowl number six with an AFC Divisional Round game against the visiting Tennessee Titans. Hot off their bigtime win against the Kansas City Chiefs last week, the Titans looked to continue their momentum going. However unlike the Chiefs, the Patriots were more than capable of holding onto a lead.
The two teams started off the game with exchanging punts with one another. On Tennessee’s third possession of the game, they started off on their own 5-yard line. QB Marcus Mariota then drove the Titans down the field with both his arm and his scrambling ability. The Titans then got to the New England 15 where on 2nd and 6, Mariota found rookie WR Corey Davis for a spectacular touchdown catch. K Ryan Succop kicked the extra point as the Titans got the early 7-0 lead. Interestingly enough, the 95-yard drive was the longest drive allowed by the Patriots defense during the Brady-Belichick era.
New England got the ball back on their 27 and proceeded to drive the ball to midfield as the first quarter came to a close. When the second quarter opened up, QB Tom Brady fooled the entire Tennessee defense with a fake reverse before tossing the ball to RB Dion Lewis for what appeared to by a 50-yard touchdown pass. But replays showed that Lewis was down by contact by LB Wesley Woodyard at the Tennessee 19. On the ensuing play, Brady found Lewis for a 14-yard pass down to the Tennessee 5. Then on 2nd and goal, Brady dumped a quick shovel pass to RB James White for the score. K Stephen Gostkowski booted the extra point through and it was all tied up 7-7.
After forcing Tennessee to punt, New England got the ball on the Tennessee 48. From there, Brady got the offense going with no-huddle on almost every play on the drive. The Patriots got the ball down to the Tennessee 6 where James White bowled over for his second touchdown of the game. Gostkowski converted the extra point to give New England the early 14-7 lead with 9:20 left in the second quarter.
After forcing another Tennessee punt, New England got the ball back deep in their own territory at their own 9-yard line. After the Titans defense held them to just 5 yards, the Patriots were forced to punt. However SS Johnathan Cyrpien drew a neutral zone infraction penalty that gave the Patriots a first down. From there, the Patriots just drove down the field down to the Tennessee 4. From there, Brady found WR Chris Hogan for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Gostkowski added the extra point as the Patriots extended their lead to 21-7.
With under 2 minutes left in the quarter, the Titans tried to answer back with a score before halftime. Maritoa got the offense all the way down to the New England 46. There on 4th and 1, the Titans decided to go for it. However, RB Derrick Henry was stuffed for a 5-yard loss and the Patriots got the ball back at the Tennessee 49 with 17 seconds left.
Brady got the offense down to the Tennessee 35 with 1 second left on the clock to set up Gostkowski for a 53-yard field goal attempt before halftime. However Gostkowski missed the field goal wide left as the two teams went into halftime with the score 21-7 in favor of the home team.
The second half began with the team exchanging punts with one another. However the Patriots defense continued to smother the Titans offense, sacking Mariota on multiple occasions. On the opposite side, the Titans defense was getting worn down by the Patriots’ no-huddle tempo offense
After getting the ball back on their own 44-yard line, the Patriots were able to drive down the field all the way down to the Tennessee 2. From there, RB Brandon Bolden was the one who totted the rock as he bowled his way over the goal line for the Patriots touchdown. Gostkowski added the extra point as the Patriots lead grew to 28-7.
After forcing another Tennessee punt, the Patriots got the ball on their 19-yard line. However a holding call pushed it back 9 yards so Brady and company had to start on their own 10. However they were able to get the ball up to the Tennessee 44 as the 3rd quarter came to an end.
When the 4th quarter started, the Patriots continued with their offensive drive. They got all the way down to the Tennessee 4 where Brady found TE Rob Gronkowski for a 4-yard TD pass. Another Gostkowski extra point pushed the lead up to 35-7.
After an exchange of punts, Tennessee got the ball back with their own 20 with less than 6 minutes left in the game. Mariota was able to successfully drive the team down the field, including converting a crucial 4th and 11 from the New England 29. The Titans got all the way down to the New England 11 where on 4th and 9, Mariota found Davis for the second time in the game, this time a 11-yard touchdown pass. Succop added the extra point as the Titans cut into the deficit 35-14. However the drive took way too much time off the clock as the Patriots got the ball back with 1:54 remaining.
Because the Titans burnt their timeouts earlier, all they could do was watch back-up New England QB blaine Hoyer come in and just kneel in victory formation to close the game out.
Top Patriot Performers
QB Tom Brady: 35-for-53 for 337 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT for QB rating of 102.5
RB Dion Lewis: 15 carries for 62 yards, 9 catches for 73 yards
RB James White: 4 carries for 27 yards and 1 TD, 4 catches for 29 yards and 1 TD
WR Danny Amendola: 11 catches for 112 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: 6 catches for 81 yards and 1 TD
DE Deatrich Wise Jr.: 2 tackles (2 solo, 0 assist), 2.0 sacks
DE Geneo Grissom: 2 tackles (2 solo, 0 assists), 2.0 sacks
Kings of the Divisional Round
The AFC Divisional Round and the Patriots seems to be synonymous with each other during the Brady-Belichick Era.
Since 2000, the Patriots have now made it to the Divisional Round a whopping 14 times out of 18 seasons. No other team in the NFL has had that same level of success during that span either. The only years that they haven’t made it were 2000, 2002, 2008, and 2009.
The Patriots’ record during that span is 12-2, including going 10-1 at home (the loss was against the New York Jets back during the 2010 season). To add the cherry on top, the game against the Titans was the 8th consecutive appearance in the Divisional Round for the Patriots.
Some teams (i.e. the Cleveland Browns) would view getting into the Divisional Round a tremendous success. For the Patriots, it’s just business as usual.
By the Numbers
52 – The amount of yards lost by Titans QB Marcus Mariota when the Patriots sacked him 8 times during the game.
28 – The amount of rushing yards that Titans RB Derrick Henry was limited to after running for 156 yards the previous week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
37 – The number of postseason games that coach Bill Belichick has coached. That moves him past both HoF coaches Tom Landry and Don Shula for most postseason games coach all-time.
835 – The number of career receiving yards TE Rob Gronkowski has in the postseason, putting him second all-time among Tight Ends.
112 – The number of receiving yards Patriots WR Danny Amendola finished for the game, his first career postseason 100-yard game.
53 – The number of pass attempts that Patriots QB Tom Brady threw in the game, the third highest amount of passes in a postseason game for him. The Patriots are now 5-2 when Brady throws for 50 or more pass attempts in a playoff game.
554 – Total touchdown passes thrown by Tom Brady in regular and postseason games combined. He now only trails former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning (579)
8 – The number of wins the Patriots have had against the Tennessee Titans during the Brady-Belichick Era (their record is 8-1, including 2-0 in the playoffs
Fox Fist Bump
Gotta give it up to the Patriots defense. They had that hiccup on the Titans’ first touchdown drive but then they dug their heels in and simply smothered the Titans offense. Titans RB Derrick Henry was limited to a paltry 28 yards rushing, QB Marcus Mariota was under duress almost the entire game (8 sacks), and they kept the Titans to just 14 points.
Turd in the Punch Bowl
No turds this week. Hard to find any faults in a dominating playoff performance that the Patriots just had.
Play of the Game
Brady Making History Yet Again
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