NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The New England Patriots dipped into their bag of tricks, and wide receiver Julian Edelman threw to a wide-open Tom Brady.
The three-time NFL MVP stumbled toward the first-down marker only to be stopped a yard shy by Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard. Then right tackle Marcus Cannon false started before Logan Ryan, a former Patriots cornerback, knocked down Brady’s fourth-down pass to Edelman.
Brady spent the rest of the game on the sideline, watching Brian Hoyer mop up Sunday after a very ugly and uncharacteristic performance in a 34-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
“It’s hard to win in the NFL,” Brady said when asked about being pulled. “You can’t take it for granted. And I think it’s hard to win. If you don’t play well, you don’t win.”
Brady was 21 of 41 for 254 yards, and this was the second time in three games he finished without throwing a TD pass.
The Patriots (7-3) snapped a six-game winning streak with the offense sputtering and not performing up to their own standards against a team that hadn’t beaten New England since Dec. 16, 2002.
New England came in ranked fourth in the NFL in averaging 30 points a game, and the Patriots hadn’t scored less than 25 points in each of the past six games. Tight end Rob Gronkowski sat out for the third time in four games with ankle and back injuries, but they did get back rookie running back Sony Michel.
Yet New England was held to just 40 yards rushing, and Tennessee outgained the Patriots 385-284 in total offense. Worse, the Titans led 17-3 at the end of the first quarter, and New England managed only one touchdown drive the entire game. Coach Bill Belichick said the Titans did better than his Patriots in every facet of the game.
The Patriots also had allowed only 13 sacks this season coming in, yet allowed a season-high three sacks to the Titans who also hit Brady six other times. Woodyard, an inside linebacker, led the Titans with 1½ sacks and three hits on Brady.
“We didn’t do really much of anything well today, so everything was a problem,” Belichick said of the pass protection.
Left tackle Trent Brown left briefly in the first half and was questionable to return because of illness. He was back for the start of the third quarter before leaving for good with an injured back. LaAdrian Waddle replaced him. Patriots tight end Dwayne Allen also hurt a knee.
But Michel managed only 31 yards on 11 carries, and the Patriots didn’t have a run longer than 9 yards.
“We just couldn’t get in a rhythm,” Michel said. “We just have to execute better.”
Former Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler has struggled, giving up touchdown passes through the first half of the season. Tennessee kept second-year cornerback Adoree Jackson on Josh Gordon, and Brady threw 12 passes to Gordon. The receiver finished with only four catches for 81 yards — 44 on the Patriots’ opening drive on one completion.
Gordon said Jackson has a lot of promise in the NFL, but that the offense seemed a little rushed.
“It’s tough for me to give good perspective,” Gordon said. “I’m not looking back and seeing the defensive line, but I think that’s partially due to the fact I felt a little rushed.”
Seeing Brady on the sideline for the final two series surprised Ryan, who had never seen the Patriots quarterback not finish a game during his four seasons in New England.
“I’ve been on the other side with him, and teams lose focus and he’s able to come back from 28-3,” Ryan said referring to 2017 when the Patriots rallied to beat Atlanta in the first overtime in the history of the Super Bowl.
The Patriots went three-and-out four times and settled for a pair of 52-yard field goals, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski pushed the second just wide left. They converted only 3 of 15 on third down.
“We just got outplayed,” said Edelman, who finished with nine catches for 104 yards.