The Tennessee Titans had no answer for the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round. Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and the defense sacked Marcus Mariota eight times in a convincing 35-14 wins. New England is going to the AFC Championship for the seventh straight year.
The Titans had a promising start when Mariota led a 95-yard touchdown drive, but that’s the only time they led. The Patriots scored 35 unanswered points to put this away with little trouble. Brady finished with 337 yards and the three scores on 35-of-53 passing.
Tennessee’s offense couldn’t do anything against a swarming Patriots front seven. Mariota took eight sacks and Derrick Henry was a non-factor (12 carries for 28 yards) as the Titans begin their offseason. The Patriots will face either the Pittsburgh Steelers or Jacksonville Jaguars next week.
- Titans WR Corey Davis’ 1st NFL touchdown was a one-handed beauty against the Patriots
- Patriots scored on a play they borrowed from the Chiefs, for the second time this season
- The refs gifted the Patriots a new set of downs by turning a false start into a Titans penalty
- Tony Romo’s narration of this Tom Brady incompletion was *chef’s kiss*
- Bill Belichick threw a challenge flag on a meaningless play and tried to catch it with hilarious disinterest
Final score: Patriots 35, Titans 14
The Titans’ onside kick attempt failed and that’s all she wrote.
Patriots 35, Titans 14 Corey Davis scored his second touchdown of the game, another impressive catch despite being deep into garbage time.
Despite having the game well in hand, Bill Belichick is out here challenging plays just because he feels like it.
Patriots 35, Titans 7 Brady goes to Gronk for his third touchdown pass of the game. This is also Gronk’s tenth career touchdown catch in the playoffs, tying five others for third-most all-time.
Third quarter: Patriots 28, Titans 7
Patriots 28, Titans 7 With the Titans withering and dying on offense, the Patriots scored again with a Branden Bolden touchdown run. The rout is on.
Tennessee got the ball to start the second half, but the offense stalled once again. A Mariota sack ended a three-and-out.
Second quarter: Patriots 21, Titans 7
The Titans had a shot to get some points before halftime, but some baffling play calls and timeout usage led to them failing on a fourth down conversion. They were lucky Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal at the end, keeping it a 14-point deficit.
Patriots 21, Titans 7 Naturally, the Patriots marched right down the field after that questionable call. Brady hit Chris Hogan in the end zone to extend their lead.
We have a ref controversy! The Titans defense forced a three-and-out and the Patriots committed false start while setting up a punt. However, the officials reversed their call to encroachment, giving the Patriots a first down.
Patriots 14, Titans 7 Dion Lewis continued carving up the Titans’ defense as the Patriots got back in the red zone. Once again, White finished the job with his second touchdown of the night, and the game is starting to get out of hand.
Titans 7, Patriots 7 It didn’t matter, though, because James White took a shovel pass 5 yards to the house and New England is on the board.
The Patriots almost answered with a bizarre play where Dion Lewis appeared to not go down on a tackle and sprinted to the end zone, but replay revealed that he was definitely down.
First quarter: Titans 7, Patriots 0
Titans 7, Patriots 0 Another well-timed scramble by Mariota put the Titans inside the red zone. They got on the board with a beautiful one-handed catch from Corey Davis, silencing the Gillette Stadium crowd.
Tennessee’s offense woke up a little, with Maroita making a big throw to Delanie Walker and scrambling for a first down past midfield. The Patriots remain stuck in neutral.
The Titans’ opening drive didn’t go much better, with Mariota getting sacked on third down to force a punt.
Despite getting Rob Gronkowksi involved early (making his first playoff appearance since missing last year’s Super Bowl with an injury), the Patriots were forced to punt on their first possession.
The top stories from the NFL’s Divisional Round
Before the game
The New England Patriots have been the NFL’s best team for a good portion of the regular season, and they’ll look to continue their dominance in the Divisional Round on Saturday. The Patriots host the Tennessee Titans, coming off a stunning comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The game kicks off at 8:15 p.m. ET on CBS (live streams at CBS All Access, Yahoo! Sports, and FuboTV).
Last year’s Super Bowl champions are a favorite to repeat, having stormed through the season with a 13-3 record and the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. After a 2-2 start in which they looked somewhat close to mortal, the Pats reeled off 11 of 12 wins to easily claim the AFC East crown for a ninth straight season.
Like always, the Patriots begin and end with Tom Brady, who’s still an MVP contender at age 40. He finished the year with 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns, and just eight interceptions. Brady is a pretty safe bet to collect his third MVP award, with most of the other contenders either succumbing to injury or prolonged slumps.
The Titans nearly ended the regular season on a whimper, blowing an 8-4 start with three straight games, putting head coach Mike Mularkey on the hot seat. They squeaked into the playoffs with a Week 17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and then upset the Chiefs in the Wild Card Round.
Tennessee came back from a 21-3 deficit thanks to a dominant performance by Derrick Henry, and a little bit of dumb luck as well. Marcus Mariota almost literally threw a touchdown pass to himself when the ball bounced off a Chiefs defender and back in his hands (just like they drew it up, no doubt).
Credit should also go to the Titans’ defense, which shut down the Chiefs in the second half after Travis Kelce exited with a concussion. They might have stumbled to the finish line in December, but the Titans walk into Gillette Stadium with a little spring in their step after their first playoff win since the 2003 season.
- Mariota’s heroics last week deserve special mention.
The Titans didn’t live up to raised expectations this season. They took a step with a postseason appearance, despite another 9-7 season. Mariota also didn’t take the leap many expected him to during the season, partially because of injuries.
But Mariota showed in a game where nobody gave the Titans a chance what he’s capable of. It was also a good reminder of what he, and the Titans, can still become.
- Mularkey got a vote of confidence from ownership, but the Titans could still make some changes.
The fact that Mike Mularkey said after the game on Saturday that he had gotten no reassurance on his job status in the building leads me to believe the reports were true- Mularkey would have been fired if the Titans lost either week 17 against the Jaguars or the Wild Card game against the Chiefs.
The fact that the reports were out there leads me to believe that Jon Robinson is absolutely calling the shots. He has Amy Adams Strunk’s ear on these things because we know how she feels about Mularkey. Remember, she hired Mularkey without really conducting a coaching search.
- Pats Pulpit takes a look at the biggest matchup advantages for New England.
The Patriots brought in Stephon Gilmore in order to deal with pesky wide receivers like Eric Decker – the 6’3 giants that win with technique and give smaller cornerbacks like Malcolm Butler fits. Gilmore has an athleticism advantage over Decker, while not giving up any physical advantages. On the other side, Butler should be familiar with [Rishard] Matthews from back in his days with Miami. While Matthews is a quality possession receiver, Butler matches up well with him. Matthews isn’t going to overpower Butler with his speed or physicality, which plays to Butler’s strength, his technique.