Apparently, reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.
For the seventh straight year, and the twelfth time in sixteen seasons, the New England Patriots are heading to the AFC Championship Game.
Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 35-14 Divisional Round win over the Tennessee Titans in Foxboro, Massachusetts on Saturday.
It was Brady’s 10th career postseason game with at least three TD passes, moving him past Joe Montana for the most in NFL history. Running back James White caught a touchdown pass and ran for another, while wide-receiver Danny Amendola had 11 catches for 112 yards.
The Titans had a promising start when quarterback Marcus Mariota led a 95-yard touchdown drive. The drive was capped by an amazing, one-armed catch by wide-receiver Cory Davis. This gave the Titans a 7-0 lead, much to the surprise of a capacity crowd at Gillette Stadium. However, that’s the only time Tennessee would hold a lead in this game.
The Patriots went on to score 35 unanswered points to seal the victory with little trouble.
While the Patriots put up an impressive offensive showing, it was their defense that most impressed on this night. The Patriots front seven racked up eight sacks on Mariota. Defensive ends Deatrich Wise, Jr. and Geneo Grissom collecting two. Fellow linemen Marquis Flowers, Trey Flowers, Adam Butler, and Ricky Jean Francois all captured one.
New England’s defense was able to generate that pressure thanks to great coverage down the field in the secondary. Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe provided key defensive plays when needed most. This allowed the Patriots to control the time of possession. As a result, Titans running back Derrick Henry was a non-factor, held to 12 carries for only 28 yards.
Another Controversial Call??
It just would not be a 2017 New England Patriots game without there being a controversial call from the officiating team.
After the Titans appeared to have forced the Patriots to a three-and-out, both teams lined up for a punt. Although it initially appeared the Patriots would be called for a false start, the Titans were called for a neutral zone infraction. This gave the Patriots an automatic first down on what was a fourth-and-10.
While the Titans did jump, it appeared that Patriots’ center David Andrews moved his head quickly. This, in turn, caused the Titans to move. While the actual call had little to no effect on the outcome of the game, it was a change in momentum that did benefit the Patriots. It also ignited yet another social media frenzy surrounding the officiating during games in which the Patriots participate.
Of course, when the margin of victory is 21, it is ludicrous to say that officiating is the sole reason for a team’s demise.
The Patriots will host either the Pittsburgh Steelers or Jacksonville Jaguars on January 21, 2018, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the AFC East. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC