Patriots Defeat Titans 35-14 to Advance to 7th Straight AFC Championship
Photo Credit: Andrew Nelles/Tennessean.com
In the wake of a controversial story and a time hailed as the end of the New England Patriots, the team went to work dominating the Tennessee Titans 35-14 to advance once again to the AFC Championship.
The Patriots started off slow much like they played the last few games giving the Titans opportunities to get over their nerves early.
Tennessee then took it down the field with authority starting the drive with a big completion to tight end Delanie Walker. They ended the drive with a Marcus Mariota touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Corey Davis for his first touchdown of his career and capping off a 95 yard drive which is the biggest drive completed for a score against a Bill Belichick coached team in the postseason.
At the start of the second quarter, the Patriots finally took control as Brady commandeered the offense down the field capping it off with a touchdown pass to running back James White.
The Patriots then continued their roll as White scored his second touchdown via a rush and Chris Hogan caught his first touchdown pass since their matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The team had a chance for more points after holding Derrick Henry to a loss on fourth down but kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the kick wide left to keep the game at 21-7
The third quarter was sluggish as the Patriots kept bringing the rush and kept controlling the ball and breaking down the Titan defense.
They capped off another offensive drive with running back Brandon Bolden of all people rushing it in for the touchdown which was his first since November 2015.
The fourth quarter began the same as the third quarter with the Patriots controlling the tempo of the game. The team iced the game with Brady throwing his 10th touchdown pass to Gronkowski all-time in the postseason which is two away from the record set by 49er’s quarterback Joe Montana and wide receiver Jerry Rice.
The Titans took one last drive down the field with Davis catching his second career touchdown pass. This was followed by an onside kick which ironically would finish the season for the Titans as it started with an onside kick with both unsuccessful attempts.
The Patriots had a lot to prove especially with all the scrutiny and publicity surrounding the team and came out on a mission. After this game, there’s only one problem and that is for the two remaining teams in the AFC playoffs trying to cool down a hot Patriots team.
The Patriots await the matchup between those two teams the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars to see who they will be playing in the AFC Championship.
Top Performers: Offense – 3 Defense – 3
Tom Brady: The quarterback was a big center of attention for the media and came out looking to prove a point that he still was the man in New England. Brady exhibited accuracy and a drastic improvement in his play after a slow finish to the season. Brady is now now the oldest quarterback to win a playoff game dethroning quarterback Brett Favre who won a divisional matchup late in his career with the Minnesota Vikings. Brady also passed Montana for most three-touchdown games in the postseason.
Offensive Line: The offensive line which has had a carousel of personnel including a late change with Cameron Fleming coming in after an injury to LaAdrian Waddle didn’t allow a sack in the game and kept Brady upright and comfortable
Danny Amendola: It took a half a decade, but Amendola finally looks like the Wes Welker replacement they overpaid for. Brady entrusted the wide receiver on third down as he caught six passes on third down to move the chains. Amendola continues being a reliable postseason target for the Patriots and watch him going forward.
Eric Rowe: Rowe came back in as the starting slot cornerback and barring one illegal contact penalty, Rowe displayed physicality in his hits and shutdown everyone he was assigned to cover.
Ricky-Jean Francois- Francois who has been bounced on and off this roster like a pinball, took over scoring his first sack as a Patriot and sliding in the place of Alan Branch seamlessly