AFC Wildcard Weekend: Tennessee Titans – 20 New England Patriots – 13
The Patriots hadn’t lost a home playoff game since 2012 until the Titans came in and did the unthinkable on Saturday. Is it the end of an era? The crumbling of a dynasty? The swan song of the GOAT?
I’m not sure.
What it certainly looked like was a keyed-up Titans team that understands how to beat the Pats, because their head coach once was one. Former New England linebacker Mike Vrabel hasn’t gotten enough credit for the work he’s done to turn this Titans unit into a contender. From getting the defense up off the mat to making the hard choice to bench Marcus Mariota in favor of Ryan Tannehill, Vrabel has made all the right moves to get to this point. The Titans do one thing exceptionally well, and that’s hand Derrick Henry the ball and let him get up to speed.
The bruising back punished the Patriots on Saturday, and they really had no answer for what he does. Henry toted the rock thirty-four times for 182 yards in the game, dragging Patriot tacklers with him on almost every rush. Even when he was met at the line of scrimmage, he often ended up with three, or four-yard gains. It was a domination.
How sure-fire was Henry as the game wore on? Ryan Tannehill completed only eight of fifteen pass attempts for 72 yards with a TD and an interception. The game plan was simple, but it worked. A few small Patriot miscues doomed the defending champs. A few dropped passes in key situations. A lost fumble by James White. Failing to capitalize after the interception by Duron Harmon. A pick six thrown from the end zone on New England’s penultimate possession.
It was as anemic a performance as we’ve seen from New England offensively all season, as the Patriots were shut out for the entire second half.
So, where does that leave Tom Brady and the Patriots as they get their offseason started?
I’m not sure. Brady will be a free agent in March, but I’m thinking that this was the end of the line for him. I just can’t see him going to any of the teams that are quarterback- needy. He was banged up down the stretch with the elbow injury, and as the season wound down, apparently hampered by a foot injury as well. At 42, and with a virtually unassailable record in his pocket, there just isn’t too much of a reason to put himself through this again next year.
That being said, if he’s back in New England for one last chance, I wouldn’t be that blown away, but he would probably need a few things to make any sort of a real run. I’m just not sure that the hoodie would be willing to allow anyone, even Brady, to dictate roster needs. We’ll talk more about that as the offseason progresses.
As for the Titans? They’re on to Baltimore, where they’ll need to score a bit more than twenty points to keep pace.
For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.
Image Source: AP Images