Patriots Blow Out Titans, Advance To AFC Title Game
After trailing 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, the New England Patriots flipped the switch and proceeded to outscore the Tennessee Titans 35-7 over the game's final three quarters to win the teams' divisional round playoff battle 35-14 Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
7 Straight- The win clinched New England's seventh straight trip to the AFC Championship game, a feat that will likely never again be duplicated. In the 16 seasons of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady leading the Pats, the team has advanced to 12 total conference title games.
Tommy Terrific- With a weak end to the regular season and an ESPN hit piece coming out just over a week ago that was aimed at sullying his name, Tom Brady has been questioned a fair amount over the last month plus. Well, the future Hall-of-Famer did his best to dispel any questions about his play as of late, Saturday, by carving up the Titan defense. After a slow start to the game, with his first two drives ending in punts around midfield, Brady got his team started on the fast track to a blow out win. Passing the ball a whopping 53 times on the night, Brady completed 35 of his throws to seven different receivers for 337 yards and three scores. The 40-year-old also became the oldest quarterback ever to win a postseason game. It was a dominant night for Brady and a tough one for all of his haters, of which there are many.
Dola Has Himself A Day- Of all of the players on offense for New England, not named Tom Brady, wide receiver Danny Amendola had the biggest impact. The veteran wide out, who has become one of Brady's most trusted targets especially in big moments, was stellar on the night, totaling game-highs in catches and receiving yards. Amendola caught 11 passes for 112 yards on 13 total targets, eclipsing the century mark for the first time in postseason play. Amendola was responsible for converting at least six third downs, as he continually helped prolong drives and help set up scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Focused On 3- While Brady hit seven different receivers with at least one pass completion, over the course of the game, he leaned heavily on three top targets. The trio of Amendola, Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis caught 26 of Brady's 35 completions. On 32 targets, the 26 catches went for 272 yards and a score on the night.
Busy Night For The Backfield- It was a busy night for the guys working out of the New England backfield, as the trio of Lewis, James White and Brandon Bolden combined for 208 yards of total offense and three touchdowns on 36 touches. The backs were paced by Lewis, who ran for 62 yards on 15 carries and caught nine balls for another 79 yards on the day. White scored twice, one on a shovel pass and once on the ground, while also totaling 40 yards on eight touches. The core special teamer, Bolden, also played well in an unexpected role, carrying the ball four times for 27 yards and a goal line touchdown. In the absence of power backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee, Bolden got some touches down by the goal line and made them count.
Sacking History- The Patriot defense made history in the game, as they set a team record for sacks in a postseason game with eight. The once seemingly incompetent front seven showed up in a big way, throughout the game, not only recording the eight sacks but also adding 10 hits on the quarterback and eight tackles for loss.
Stifling The Run- Coming off of a dominant performance in the Titans' 22-21 Wild Card win, in which he rushed for 156 yards, Tennessee running back Derrick Henry was expected to be a problem for the New England defense in the divisional round. Instead, the Patriots proved to be a problem for Henry. On the night, the former Heisman winner rushed for just 2.3 yards per carry, as he totaled a lowly 28 yards on 12 rushes. New England's front seven did a masterful job of stopping the oversized back from getting a head of steam in the backfield and limited his ability to break free from tackles. Taking Henry out of the mix really limited what Tennessee was able to do offensively and, in turn, helped the Patriots close in on Marcus Mariota and rack up the playoff record in sacks.
A Solid Effort- Overall, the Patriot defense put together a great performance in the game, save for a 95-yard drive in the first quarter and a garbage time touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, all three levels of the defense worked hard to limit Tennessee's ability to move the ball. The front seven was dominant throughout the game and cornerback Stephon Gilmore had a couple of big moments in pass coverage, as well.
A Tough Night- While most of the Patriots had solid games, cornerback Malcolm Butler seemed to struggle. Butler allowed both touchdowns caught by Tennessee rookie Corey Davis, who entered the game with zero touchdowns since entering the league this season. Davis did make some impressive catches, but Butler shouldn't be let off the hook for allowing the scores. He also got bailed out by a ticky-tack OPI call on Eric Decker in the first half that negated a third down conversion. Butler will have to be better as the playoff continue.
The Pats now await the winner of Sunday's 1:05 PM game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams present different challenges for the Patriots, as they look to continue their Blitz for 6.