The New England Patriots are headed back to the AFC championship game. At this point, one should honestly start calling it the “Patriots vs. <INSERT OPPONENT HERE> Game.” Quite frankly, it is becoming a tradition.
On Saturday, a 7th consecutive trip was on the line as the Titans were in town. The Patriots handled business pretty handily by beating them 35-14.
Let’s get right to this week’s winners and losers.
It’s no secret that Brady has looked worse over his past 6 or 7 weeks but he was anything but fantastic over the course of this game. Brady finished with 337 yards passing and three touchdowns while completing 35 pass attempts. Titans safety Kevin Byard stated that he wanted to make “Brady look like Bortles.” Well, he will have to try doing so through photoshop or Madden because that didn’t work out too well.
The Running Backs
Going into the game without Gillislee or Burkhead, it was evident that others were going to have to step up. Yet it was expected to see this type of production. Dion Lewis played his 8th or 9th straight fantastic game after starting the season barely seeing the field. He finished this game with 168 all-purpose yards and continues to show up as one of the leagues more dangerous producers. Brandon Bolden carried the ball four times for 27 yards and a TD in which ended up being his first TD in years. James White hadn’t seen the field much in the past few months only to end up with 2 touchdowns. With injuries going on, the three running backs on the field showed up in a big way.
The Front 7
Do people remember when this team had the worst defense in the league? Many questioned whether Brady would be able to drag this team the distance because of it. Well, 8 sacks later and a fabulous performance against the Titans and here we stand. As soon as the Patriots took a major lead, the Titans were forced to throw. This was when the Patriots feasted on this team. Deatrich Wise Jr. and Geneo Grissom both finished with two sacks while Trey Flowers, Marquis Flowers, Adam Butler and Ricky Jean Francois all combined for the rest of the sacks.
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As polarizing of a signing there has been in New England in recent memory, Gilmore was fantastic in this game. He’s had a roller coaster first year on the team, however, he was the best cornerback on the field in this game. He was targeted four times and not once was a pass completed near him. It was a huge game for him and the Patriots will look to him to do the same going forward.
For all the talk before the season that Butler felt underappreciated due to the Gilmore signing, he has had an up and down season. At times he’s looked fantastic however he got heavily outplayed by Gilmore in this game. He surrendered six catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns. The entire secondary was very good for the most part apart from Butler.
Waddle does not make this list due to performance but rather the unfortunate injury he went through. He suffered a knee injury early in the game and most reports indicate that it doesn’t look good going forward.
There weren’t any other true, solid losers to put in here. That is a good sign for the Patriots. The more winners they have the better. Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski both had fantastic games yet again and there is something that should be said about both of their consistent and impressively healthy seasons this year.
There are many indications that Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia might be going elsewhere after this season to pursue head coaching opportunities. As a result, this may be the final run with this group. While this remains to be seen, the Patriots sure hope to finish the season’s final stretch on a high note.
Until next week…
Jared Talbot is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @JaredTalbot17