Sunday marked the start of a confident playoff run for the Patriots as they beat the Titans 35-14. Tennessee came out strong in the first quarter but soon enough New England took over and dominated the remainder of the game. In a very convincing way, the Titans beat themselves with an overload of penalties and miscommunicated plays. However, everyone on the Patriots team contributed to this win in one way or another.
A valid argument can be made that Tom Brady isn’t the real leader of the Patriots team anymore; Dion Lewis is. His play has been nothing short of spectacular all season. Lewis has been the consistent driving force behind the New England offense and he delivers when Brady can’t. In this game, the running back had 15 carries for 62 yards and 9 receptions for 79 yards. Even though Lewis didn’t have a touchdown, the number of first downs (about 6) he delivered instead should suffice. Lewis carried the offense downfield with small spurts of yardage that paved the way for bigger plays from other players. As mentioned in my previous article, the second effort Lewis puts into each carry shouldn’t be overlooked; this quality is what makes him such a dangerous player.
Matt Patricia and his defense should feel nothing less than pleased with their showing last Sunday. All of the little and not so little mistakes made throughout the regular season were nowhere in sight. The statistics alone speak for themselves. The line sacked Mariota 8 times for a total loss of -52 yards with an additional 10 quarterback hits. Considering quarterback pressure was a huge problem earlier this season, those stats are a nice surprise. With this pressure, Mariota was forced to throw the ball away on many occasions; at times this would force the fourth down and a punt. The defensive line needs to play with at least the same amount of vigor next week so they can shut down Jacksonville’s quarterback, Blake Bortles.
Danny Amendola and James White
Danny Amendola and James White followed suit behind Lewis with standout games. More of the Patriots offense began to be utilized and these two players were the biggest contributors. Amendola was the top receiver for either team with 11 receptions for 112 yards. While he didn’t have a touchdown, the receiver also had roughly 6 first down conversions just like Lewis. White finished the game with 4 carries for 11 yards, 4 receptions for 29 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The Titans made the mistake of double covering the wrong players, and White made them pay for it. Next week both of these players will have to put up another intense performance if they hope to make it past the Jaguars defense.
Tom Brady’s play isn’t the same as it used to be; he’s less consistent. On a handful of third downs, the quarterback blew it by overthrowing or underthrowing seemingly easy passes. Brady completed 35 of 53 passes (66%) for 337 yards and 3 touchdowns. These aren’t necessarily bad statistics, but Brady is held to a higher standard than most quarterbacks. Brady also appeared to let fear get the best of him. The quarterback was sacked a total of 0 times during the game and only suffered 4 quarterback hits. It’s understandable that as Brady gets older the hits he sustains leave more of an impact and he wants to play the game for as long as he can. However, throwing the ball away just to avoid a hit isn’t always the right move. Brady has to trust his offensive line to do their job so he can focus on doing his.
Malcolm Butler ended the night with 4 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. With rather unimpressive statistics, his actual play wasn’t any better. Butler appears to have a hard time while playing zone defense. During the Titan’s opening drive, he gave the receiver too much room and allowed them to run for an easy first down. On a later drive, he was following too closely and ended up tripping over his own feet. The receiver was called for stiff-arming, but in reality that was just a bad call and bad play by Butler. As for man-on-man coverage, there is still not much improvement. The cornerback gave up Tennessee’s first touchdown of the game. However, in his defense, the one-handed catch made by Titans receiver Cory Davis was incredibly impressive.
Similar to Butler, Eric Rowe had 5 total tackles at the end of the game on Sunday. He didn’t play terribly the entire game, but there were a few plays clustered together that put him on three down. The series of plays where Rowe went wrong occurred just before halftime. The Titan’s offensive drive began with a wide open first down due to miscommunication within the secondary. Later in that drive, Rowe was given a penalty for illegal contact which resulted in a first down for Tennessee. On the next play, the cornerback was beaten and got lucky the pass was overthrown. Rowe was beaten once more during this drive but eventually, the defense forced the fourth down and punt. No one on the Secondary can afford to make mistakes like this in their next game.
And, ‘Caitlyn’s Crystal Ball’ Says…
On Sunday, the Patriots will face off against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who upset the Steelers last week. The main concern surrounding this matchup is whether the New England offense will be able to power through Jacksonville’s top-rated defense. If the entire offense is utilized instead of just one or two key players, then this game should end similar to that against Tennessee.
–Caitlyn Allen is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. She covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @caitlyyyn_allen