Titans @ Patriots: Gameday
By Les Bailey
Dec 13, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Back in the spring when the Tennessee Titans regular season schedule came out, I’m sure everyone on this young roster circled this game on the calendar against the legendary Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots.
I’m also sure everyone in this organization anticipated having a record that was better than 3-10 at this point of the season and maybe this game would have playoff ramifications.
It does for Tom Brady and the Patriots, but for the Tennessee Titans, another loss will improve the 2016 draft status.
Almost every stat connected to this week 15 match-up points to another New England win, but like Chris Berman always says, “that’s why they play the game”. The NFL will not let you mail in the score without playing the game, and anything can happen on any week.
So let’s get to the business of taking a look at ways the boys from Music City can win this thing.
The biggest concern for Patriots head coach Bill Belicheck is needing to get through this game without getting his Hall of Fame quarterback injured.
Brady was ill and missed practice on Friday afternoon, and was questionable for this game, but all indications are that he will start this game against the Titans.
The Titans pass rush that was potent earlier in the season when Derrick Morgan was healthy needs to step up today and Brian Orakpo will need to put pressure on Brady.
With a lot of questions on the Patriot offensive line, and a patchwork running game, the only way this team has a chance is to get Tom Brady off his sweet spot and keep him on the run.
Brady has been sacked 32 times this year already and was sacked only 21 times for the entirety of the 2014 season.
The Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles supplied the blueprint for beating the Pats by keeping pressure on Brady all day, and controlled the clock by running the football.
The other stat that sticks out like an ugly step-sister in this game is the turnover records. The Pats are +5 in this metric and the Tennessee Titans are a -8.
There will be no room for the usual slow start from the Titans, and there will be no win in Foxborough if the Titans put the ball on the ground, or Marcus Mariota throws that errant pass.
The Titans running game will have to work today. The Broncos, Eagles and the New York Jets continued to pound the ball on the ground, even when they got behind in the score. The Titans will need to do the same if they stand any chance.
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The Patriots running game has been decimated with injuries, and the loss of LeGarrette Blount last week has Bill Belichick scavenging the bone yard for any warm body that can tote the rock.
The “next man up” philosophy has the Pats at the bottom of the barrel as the season winds down, and may be the Achilles heel for this teams chances of repeating their 2014 Super Bowl win.
Brandon Bolden and James White will be featured in the running game today, but the Pats have brought in Montee Ball and added him to the practice squad for some insurance, and have worked out Stephen Jackson to see if the former Atlanta Falcon has anything left in the tank.
Jackson worked out, but hasn’t been offered a contract….yet!
The one phase of the game the New England Patriots have in control is their defense which could see the return of Devin McCourty to the already good secondary today.
Bill Belichick loves to frustrate young quarterbacks with his defensive prowess, and today should be no different for rookie Marcus Mariota.
The Pats are ranked 11th in the league against the run, so expect the them to take away out meager running game, and Delanie Walker in this game and force Mariota to throw the ball downfield.
The last key for the Titans to shut down is Rob Gronkowski. Gronk was absent as well for the Friday practice due to personal issues, but expect him to be on the field today and terrorizing the Dick LeBeau defense.
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The Tennessee Titans have gotten some attention in the media around the NFL this week because they are taking on the leagues premier team, but the bad news is the last trip to Foxborough ended in a 59-0 beatdown back in 2009.
Not much has changed for either team, and with the betting odds at -13 points, the general consensus is a 35-13 victory for the Pats is the order of the day.