Patriots roll over the Titans and secure the first-round bye
A win is a win is a commonly used phrase for NFL fans when their team wins a game in a not so pretty fashion. Fans of the New England Patriots will be saying that when they talk to their friends or co-workers Monday morning when talking about the Patriots 33-16 victory over the lowly Tennessee Titans. The game certainly wasn’t pretty, but most importantly the Patriots won and improved to 12-2 on the season. It is their sixth straight 12-win season.
The Patriots offense came out firing as they went down the field in 11 plays on their first possession of the game. The drive was highlighted by a 29-yard pitch and catch by Tom Brady to Brandon LaFell, who had his first truly solid game of the season on Sunday. The drive was capped off by a five-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, who dedicated his game to his friend and also trainer who passed away last week.
The Patriots and Titans defense’s then both forced stops. On the third play of the Titans third possession, Chandler Jones strip sacked Marcus Mariota and the ball was picked up in the end zone by the 350-pound Akiem Hicks for the Patriots touchdown. Gillette Stadium was rocking early as it appeared that the Patriots were on their way to another home blowout of the Titans. The Patriots defense answered by stopping the Titans on a third down and one play, and forced Tennessee interim head coach Mike Mularkey to punt.
However, on the ensuing punt Danny Amendola fumbled giving the ball right back to the Titans. It was the third time in four weeks that the Patriots have fumbled on a punt return. Nevertheless, the Patriots defense came up big once again with a key sack from Jamie Collins, in which Marcus Mariota went down with a knee injury. The Titans were held to only three points.
The Patriots were helped out by a great special teams play as Keshawn Martin returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards, setting the Patriots up at the Tennessee 30-yard line. Two plays later Tom Brady found James White in the flat, and he got tremendous blocks from Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola on his way to a 30-yard touchdown reception. The route appeared to be on in Foxborough heading into half time, as the Patriots added a Stephen Gostkowski field goal to go up 24-3.
The second half for the Patriots was overall very lack luster. Towards the end of the first half on a punt return Danny Amendola limped off with what appeared to be another knee injury. He did not return to the game, and there has been no updates up to this point. The Patriots offense without a true slot receiver looks very mediocre, and Josh McDaniels knows that. Therefore, in the second half there seemed to be the approach of, “lets get out of here alive.” The Patriots offense for once relied heavily on the run game. Brandon Bolden had 36 yards on 10 carries, and newly acquired Joey Iosefa had 51 yards on 14 carries. Iosefa’s highlight of the day came when he absolutely ran through a Titans defender. He has now been touted by some Patriots fans with the nickname, “The Hawaiian Hammer.”
The Patriots defense even at times looked underwhelming in the second half. Titans back up quarterback Zach Mettenberger took his team down the field on their first possession of the second half and found Delanie Walker in the end zone. Walker would once again find the end zone as two Patriots players failed to tackle him, as he stumbled 57 yards for the touchdown. The Patriots offense settled for field goals in the second half only scoring nine points.
In the end, this was a painful game to watch from an entertainment stand point as a fan, but it was one that the Patriots won on defense. They forced four turnovers, and made key stops in route to this Patriots win. Of course yet again the Patriots were hit by injury as key players such as Danny Amendola, Don’t’a Hightower, and Patrick Chung all left with injury. Both Hightower and Chung were seen on the side line later in the game. It was yet another solid win by the Patriots, and with help from the Pittsburgh Steelers beating the Denver Broncos the Patriots have now secured a first-round bye. However, now the Patriots must move on and focus on their upcoming match up at Metlife Stadium with the red hot New York Jets.