The Patriots’ 6-game winning streak was snapped today in Nashville, as they were routed 34-10 by the Tennessee Titans (5-4). The Pats fall to 7-3, which increases the gap between them and the AFC leading Kansas City Chiefs (9-1). Tennessee was able to outplay the Patriots in all 3 phases of the game.
Here are some takeaways from today’s loss.
1. Tennessee’s defense dominated the Brady Bunch
The Titans entered this game as the NFL’s top scoring defense, and they did not disappoint, as they limited the Patriots to a season low 10 points. Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees were able to craft a game plan to get after Tom Brady and constantly disrupt his mechanics and timing. Tennessee halted any momentum the Pats’ offensive line had had prior to today, as they were able to frequently penetrate through the middle and stifle the offense.
Julian Edelman was one of the sole bright spots for the offense, as he corralled 9 catches for 104 yards and was frequently a security blanket for Brady. Unfortunately, Edelman took a beating throughout the game, and left the game in the fourth quarter due to an ankle injury. Josh Gordon had 4 catches for 81 yards, but a finger injury suffered last week definitely affected his ability to catch, as he dropped a key pass in the first half that halted a drive that could have allowed the Patriots to tie the game early on. The rushing game was utterly non-existent for the Pats, as Sony Michel had only 31 yards (off 11 carries) in his return from injury.
The Pats need to reevaluate their offensive game plan to ensure their success as the season progresses.
2. The defense got overwhelmed
Marcus Mariota had his best game of the season as he had 228 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mariota and Corey Davis (7 receptions for 125 yards and 1 touchdown) combined to make life miserable for the Patriots, as they were able to efficiently stretch the field at will. Following a series of remarkable performances, Stephon Gilmore had a clunker today, as he was frequently beat by Davis, and committed a few penalties.
The defense was not much better at stopping the run, as they gave up 150 yards, with Derrick Henry (11 carries for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Dion Lewis (20 carries for 57 yards) leading the way for Tennessee.
It was disappointing to see the Pats take a step back on defense, but I have faith in their ability to bounce back from this.
3. Special teams was dreadful as well
Special teams was a disaster for the Patriots, as big kickoff returns and punt returns enabled the Titans to start drives with great field position. For example, the Titans opened the game with a 58-yard kickoff return on their way to a opening drive touchdown. At one point in the game, the Titans’ average starting field position was at the Pats’ 42 yard line, while the Pats started at their own 24.
2 of the Patriots’ losses this year have been at teams coached by ex-Patriots ( Week 3 at Detroit and today against Tennessee). Both games were similar, as Brady got constantly hounded, while the defense could not stop the pass or run. It appears as if Matt Patricia and Mike Vrabel are very familiar with the chinks in the Pats’ armor.
This factor makes today’s loss less concerning, even though the Pats definitely have their work cut out for them.
Passing: Tom Brady – 21/41 for 254 yards
Rushing: Sony Michel – 11 carries for 31 yards
Receiving: Julian Edelman – 9 catches for 104 yards
Defense: Kyle Van Noy – 13 tackles
Passing: 16/24 for 228 yards and 2 touchdowns
Rushing: Derrick Henry – 11 carries for 58 yards
Receiving: Corey Davis – 7 catches for 125 yards and 1 touchdown
This Sunday, the Patriots head down to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans (4-4) in a rematch of last year’s AFC divisional round game. The Pats enter this contest at 7-2, with hopes of keeping pace with the conference-leading Chiefs.
Here are some things to consider entering this Week 10 matchup.
1. The offense faces a tough matchup in Tennessee
The Patriots’ offense has really found its rhythm in recent weeks, as they’ve figured out a way to shuffle their personnel in order to make up for injuries (specifically Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel). Tom Brady has been able to rely on the duo of Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon to move the ball down the field and the running back combination of James White and Cordarrelle Patterson has proven to be extremely potent for the team.
This week’s matchup will be challenging as they take on the NFL’s top scoring defense in the Titans, who have a swarming defensive line and a great group of linebackers. For the Pats to be successful, they will need to target the Titans’ susceptible secondary.
2. Will the Pats’ defense continue to succeed?
The Patriots’ defense appeared to turn a corner during last week’s victory against the Packers, as they got after Aaron Rodgers and limited Green Bay to 17 points. One of the key factors in the victory was the pass rush’s ability to keep Rodgers in the pocket, with Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn leading the way. That will be essential to replicate this week as they face off with the mobile Marcus Mariota, who is coming off a performance in Dallas where he was able to dissect the Cowboys’ defense with his ability to run for first downs. The Pats will also need to fortify the line of scrimmage to combat the efficient combination of Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry.
Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty have also been essential cogs in the secondary’s revitalization over the last few weeks, and if they continue to play well on Sunday, the Pats will have a good chance of emerging victorious in Nashville.
3. Facing off against ex-Patriots
The Pats will be taking on familiar faces this Sunday when they head to Tennessee. As mentioned earlier, Dion Lewis has become an essential part of the Titans’ offense, after 3 seasons with the Patriots. Lewis is not missed in New England, because James White has emerged into a true #1 back for Josh McDaniels’ offense.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Titans feature 2 ex-Patriot cornerbacks in Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. Ryan left the Patriots following their victory in Super Bowl LI, while Butler left following the loss in Super Bowl LII. Ryan was a great contributor for the Pats, but was replaced during the 2017 off-season with the signing of Stephon Gilmore. Butler’s departure from New England was much more controversial due to him being benched during Super Bowl LII, which made several pundits question how the Pats’ secondary function without him. Bill Belichick’s decision to move on from Butler has appeared to be wise so far, as Butler has given up 7 touchdowns in 8 games.
The Titans are coached by Mike Vrabel who was a linebacker on the Patriots for 8 seasons, and won 3 Super Bowls with the team. This will be the first time Bill Belichick coaches against a former player.
Trent Brown (illness) – Questionable
*Rob Gronkowski (ankle/knee) – Out
Dont’a Hightower (knee) – Questionable
Jacob Hollister (hamstring) – Questionable
Shaq Mason (calf) – Questionable
**Sony Michel (knee) – Will play
Jack Conklin (concussion) – Out
Dane Cruikshank (knee) – Questionable
Taywan Taylor (foot) – Questionable
Derrick Morgan (shoulder) – Questionable
Tajae Sharpe (ankle) – Questionable
Bennie Logan (knee) – Questionable
Prediction: Patriots28, Titans17
Here are my picks for the rest of the NFL’s Week 10 contests (excluding Thursday Night Football)
Last week: 8-4
Saints at Bengals: Saints
Falcons at Browns: Falcons
Lions at Bears: Bears
Cardinals at Chiefs: Chiefs
Redskins at Buccaneers: Buccaneers
Bills at Jets: Jets
Jaguars at Colts: Colts
Chargers at Raiders: Chargers
Seahawks at Rams: Rams
Dolphins at Packers: Packers
Cowboys at Eagles: Eagles
Giants at 49ers: 49ers
* and ** – Updated on game day based on information released by the Patriots