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The Patriots won their sixth in a row Sunday, taking advantage of a beaten-up Tennessee team to roll to a 36-13 victory.
Mac Jones (23-for-32, 310 yards, two touchdowns), Kendrick Bourne (five catches, 61 yards, two touchdowns), and Nick Folk (five field goals) powered New England to the win.
Tennessee, which was without running back Derrick Henry and wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, was led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill (11-for-21, 93 yards, one touchdown, one interception) and running back Dontrell Hilliard (12 carries, 131 yards, one touchdown).
The Titans suffered their second straight loss.
The Patriots were inconsistent and missed some red-zone chances in the early going, but still managed to keep Tennessee at bay all afternoon. New England took an early 16-6 lead on the strength of three Folk field goals (22, 37, and 44 yards) and a first-quarter scoring strike from Jones to Bourne. Tennessee cut the lead to 16-13 late in the second on a 68-yard touchdown run by Dontrell Hilliard to make it 16-13 at the half.
But that was as close as the Titans would get the rest of the way. Another field goal from Folk and another touchdown catch from Bourne (this one going for 41 yards) make it 26-13 after three.
The Patriots piled on in the fourth quarter, as Folk booted his fifth of the day, a 52-yarder with 6:09 left in regulation, to make it 29-13. And Damien Harris delivered New England’s first rushing touchdown of the afternoon with 4:38 left to make it 36-13 and finish the scoring.
Here’s how it unfolded:
That’s six straight for the Patriots, who will face the Bills on Monday Night Football next week.
Damien Harris just polished off another big scoring drive for New England, which makes it 36-13 with 4:38 to go. It hasn’t been dead-center perfect all afternoon, but it’s been more than enough for the Patriots, who are closing in on first place in the AFC.
Folk’s 52-yarder is good to make it 29-13 with 6:09 left in regulation. It’s his fifth of the day.
Huge response by the New England defense, which saw the Titans bull their way back downfield only to have J.C. Jackson pick off Tannehill in the end zone. Big momentum play for the Patriots, who will take over at their own 20. That was the seventh pick of the season for Jackson.
Three quarters are done — New England holds a 26-13 lead, but Tennessee is driving.
Not sure you’re ever going to see a better tip-toe along the sidelines than Kendrick Bourne completed on that 41-yard touchdown reception. Just great body control down the Tennessee sideline, and he finished it off for the score. The extra point was good — it’s 26-13 with 5:01 to go in the third quarter. Just a well-executed series there for Bourne, who has four catches for 57 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
A few quick notes midway through the third quarter:
•Good couple of series from Mills, with the PBU on Hollister and the fumble recovery the series before.
•Excellent play by Godchaux on doing his part in pursuit of Tannehill on that last Judon tackle. Cut off a rushing lane for the quarterback and forced him toward Judon.
•New England will get the ball back in what has become a field-position battle — the Pats will take over at their own 44-yard line with 6:44 left in the third quarter. New England leads, 19-13.
Biiiig play there by the New England defense, as J.C. Jackson was able to punch the ball away after a big pickup from Foreman and Jalen Mills came away with the ball. The Patriots get it back at their own 37-yard line. New England has a chance to put some distance between itself and Tennessee on this possession.
Another field goal? Another field goal. (What are the odds that Nick Folk is going to win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week?) A drive that started with promise fell short of the end zone. (Sounds familiar?) Folk just converted a 28-yard field goal to make it 19-13 with 11:13 to go in the third quarter.
It was a series that started strong: there was an incredibly well-executed bootleg pass play from Mac Jones to Jonnu Smith that ended up going for 20 yards to start the drive. Damien Harris had pickups of five and six yards to extend the drive further into Tennessee territory. But another failure to execute in the red zone led to the fourth field goal of the day for Folk. Points are points, sure, but it’s another missed opportunity for the Patriots.
Two quarters are in the books in Foxborough, and the Patriots are up, 16-13. Here are a few stats and some notes:
Mac Jones: 15-for-21, 206 yards, TD
Jonnu Smith: 1 carry, 9 yards
Jakobi Meyers: 3 catches, 5 targets, 80 yards
Brandon Bolden: 4 catches, 4 targets, 54 yards
Ryan Tannehill: 10-for-13, 79 yards, 1 TD
•The Patriots were on the cusp of heading into the locker room with a tidy 10-point lead when Dontrell Hilliard went for a 68-yard touchdown run with less than a minute to go, a run that cut the lead to 16-13. (It was a play that felt like a callback to last year and early this season when New England had defensive issues closing out the first half.) All in all, it was an ugly end to the first half for the Patriots’ defense, which had been playing relatively well to that point in the afternoon.
•A couple of other defensive notes: Devin Godchaux is controlling things up front, and was the one who forced the late second-quarter fumble that was picked up by Kyle Dugger. Judon had an early sack. Tennessee’s first touchdown was the first score the Patriots’ defense had allowed dating all the way back to Cleveland’s opening drive, a run of 20 straight possessions.
•Jones and the Patriots’ offense had one good drive (the opener) and three that fizzled in the red zone that were saved by Nick Folk field goals. A good but not great couple of quarters for the New England offense, which is moving the ball nicely between the 20s, but has had issues putting the ball in the end zone. (Late in the second quarter, Jones had Hunter Henry behind the defense, but missed on the throw.) Ultimately, the Patriots have left some points on the field in the first two quarters, which has allowed Tennessee to hang around a bit here.
•Despite the fact that they are down so many players on offense, the Titans aren’t playing scared. Vrabel has shown a great faith in his team, including the fact that he went for it early on fourth down, a move that appeared to give his guys some spark. Tannehill completed his first eight passes while engineering an early scoring drive. They might be missing their key guys, but my guess is that Tennessee is going to figure out a way to stick around this afternoon.
•The Titans certainly had their chances in the first half. Tennessee had three early penalties, a missed extra point, and a missed field goal. For a team that had a narrow margin for error this afternoon, these are the sorts of things that could come back to haunt the Titans, especially if this ends up a one-score game.
•The New England special teamers had a solid first half — Nick Folk made three of his four field-goal opportunities (he missed a 53-yarder at the end of the first half) and his extra-point chance. The coverage units also did well to limit the Tennessee return game.
•The Patriots will get the ball to start the second half.
That hurts — Hilliard just busted a 68-yard run for a touchdown with 37 seconds left in the first half to make it 16-13. That felt like a callback to last year and early this season when New England had defensive issues closing out the first half. An ugly end to the first half for the Patriots’ defense, which had been playing relatively well to that point in the afternoon.
Jones just missed Hunter Henry on that third-down pass play, a toss that would have given the Patriots their first touchdown of the second quarter. That one was on the quarterback. However, Folk hit his third field goal of the game, a 44-yarder, to make it 16-6 with 58 seconds left in the first half. New England has a 10-point lead, sure, but it feels like they’ve left some points on the field here in the early going.
The Patriots just forced a fumble, and will take possession at their own 32. Big chance here for New England to put a stamp on this one.
Given a gift after Tennessee missed a 44-yard field goal that would have made it a one-point game, the Patriots just made the Titans pay. It wasn’t the perfect response, but the 37-yard field goal from Nick Folk was enough to extend the New England lead to 13-6 with 3:04 left in the first half. A 38-yard dime from Jones to Meyers (over Byard) was one of the best-looking pass plays of the season for the Patriots.
Tennessee had three early penalties, missed an extra point and just missed a field goal. Yikes. For a team that had a narrow margin for error this afternoon, these are the sorts of things that will make Vrabel nuts, especially if this ends up being a one-score game. It’s 10-6 Patriots with 6:01 left in the second quarter.
New England’s first offensive drive was a steady, sustained one; this one was a little quicker, as Jones leaned on a pair of pass catchers to get the Patriots into scoring position.
Meyers started the drive with a pair of catches (one for 20 yards, another for 22 yards) that got New England into Tennessee territory. Then, it was Jonnu Smith with back-to-back catches (21 and 13 yards) that got the Patriots into the red zone. The Patriots ended up settling for a field goal — a 22-yarder from Folk — to make it 10-6 with 9:50 left in the first half.
Ultimately, a promising start that ended with a less-than-ideal finish. Jones is 6-for-8 for 86 yards and a touchdown, while Meyers (2 catches, 42 yards) and Smith (2 catches, 29 yards) have provided the bulk of the offense to this point.
A Tannehill 1-yard touchdown pass gets the Titans on the board — those were the first points allowed by the New England defense dating back to the opening drive of the Browns earlier in the month. (The Patriots had gone 20 straight possessions without allowing a point.) It’s 7-6 (the extra point was no good) with 13:42 left in the first half.
A few quick notes:
•Bold move by the Titans going for it on fourth and inches, but it’s the sort of thing that Tennessee is going to have to do this afternoon. Respect the decision by Vrabel; it appeared to give the Titans a bit of a spark, who put together one of the more impressive offensive drives against the Patriots over the last month-plus.
•Cody Hollister was always a tough nut when he was in New England. No surprise to see him take that hit from Dugger and hold on to the ball to help Tennessee move the chains.
•The Patriots were rotating some linebackers through on that sequence. It looked like Van Noy got a little banged up, while Hightower had to come out because of an equipment issue. Both returned before the end of the drive.
End of the first quarter. Pats hold a 7-0 lead, but Tennessee is driving. Mac Jones is 2-3 for 15 yards and a touchdown pass.
This already looks an awful lot like the last few games — squeeze out a steady, controlled drive in the early going, set the tempo and impose their will on the opponent. The New England running game remains so physical and rugged — an impressive quality, especially at this time of the year. It paid off there with a fade to Kendrick Bourne for the touchdown — it’s 7-0 with 7:37 to go in the first.
A few other early notes:
•For a team that had little margin for error coming into the game, three early penalties didn’t help things for Tennessee. An ugly start for a tough, smart team.
•Kevin Byard is really something. Tried to write about him early this week, but I think I undersold his skills. Been in the box crunching ballcarriers and in coverage against Hunter Henry. Impressive here early.
•The Patriots’ offensive line was as expected, from left to right: Wynn, Karras, Andrews, Mason, and Brown.
Great opening sequence there for the New England defense, which was helped by the early Tennessee penalty. Judon delivers a crushing sack on third down — his 11.5 sack of the season — to force the punt. New England will get the ball with 12:34 to go in the first quarter — we’re scoreless.
New England wins the toss and will defer. Time for football.
Patriots’ offensive line, left to right in warmups: Wynn, Karras, Andrews, Mason, and Brown. The same group we saw last week. Presumably means Onwenu is the first man in in case of emergency, as well as the extra offensive lineman when New England goes heavy.
Three or four weeks ago, this was one of the most anticipated games on the Patriots’ schedule. This was going to be a measuring-stick contest, the sort of game where you can rely get some sort of gauge on where New England stands in the AFC.
Now? With so many of Tennessee’s skill position players down, this one has lost some of its juice. Not saying the win won’t matter — any victory for the Patriots right now is a big one. But it won’t have the sort of seismic impact it would have if Henry and Brown were available.
With that in mind, I think New England wins and covers. Like I wrote earlier in the week, they’re getting the Titans at the right time. Toss in the fact that they’ve always done relatively well when it comes to defending Tannehill, and today will be no exception. I’m going to say Patriots 27, Titans 13.
This has been a wild week when it comes to the Pats-Titans line — I don’t think I’ve seen a line for a recent game involving the Patriots move more over one week than this one. New England started anywhere between 2.5 and 3 points, and after it was clear the Titans weren’t going to get fully healthy by game time (hello, A.J. Brown), the line has gone as high as 6.5.
I’m done saying New England won’t be able to cover — turns out I gave the Falcons, Browns, and Panthers too much credit over the last few of weeks. Unless one of those weird backdoor covers happens, I think New England will win this one and cover. As for the over/under, I think the Patriots are still going to score at a healthy enough rate to threaten the current line (44), but a Tennessee offense that’s going to be relying on backups won’t be able to match them. I’ll take the under.
Courtesy of covers.com, here are a few quick stats:
•Patriots are 5-0 against the spread in their last four games overall.
•Patriots are 4-0 against the spread in their last four games as a favorite.
•Patriots are 4-0 against the spread in their last four games in November.
•The under is 4-0 in the Patriots’ last four home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
•Titans are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games as a road underdog.
•Titans are 5-0 against the spread in their last five games as an underdog.
Here are the four other games that could have the greatest impact on New England when it comes to the AFC playoff chase, and who Patriots’ fans should be rooting for.
•Steelers (5-4-1) at Bengals (6-4), 1 p.m.: Cincinnati is only a half-game behind the Patriots in the AFC playoff race, and while Pittsburgh isn’t far off the pace, a Steelers win could theoretically provide some breathing room for New England. Pick: Pittsburgh, just barely.
•Buccaneers (7-3) at Colts (6-5), 1 p.m.: A suddenly surging Indy team — which has won five of its last six — could see its playoff dreams take a hit if Tom Brady and Tampa Bay can win today at Lucas Oil Stadium. And that’ll be good news for New England, which is a game ahead of Indianapolis heading into today’s action. Pick: Tampa Bay.
•Chargers (6-4) at Broncos (5-5), 4:05 p.m.: Both teams trail New England, so it’s fundamentally six of one and half-dozen of another here. But if we’re forced to choose between the two, Los Angeles feels like the more dangerous team at this point — the Chargers are a half-game in back of the Patriots. That means a Denver win would be best for New England. Pick: Denver.
•Browns (6-5) at Ravens (7-3), 8:20 p.m.: Easy call here — if the Patriots win and Cleveland can upend Baltimore, it’ll provide a boost for New England. At the same time, the Browns are one of three teams sitting a game behind the Patriots. Can you root for a tie? Pick: Cleveland, if only because New England holds the tiebreaker of the Browns if things get dicey later in the season.
•The Patriots have not allowed any points in 19 straight opponent possessions, dating back to the first drive of the Cleveland game Nov. 7. The longest streak in team history under Bill Belichick was 35 straight dives in ‘19.
•J.C. Jackson enters this week 10th on the Patriots all-time interception list with 23 career interceptions. With one more interception, he’ll tie with Nick Buoniconti and Ronnie Lippett for ninth place on the all-time list with 24 interceptions.
•Kyle Van Noy scored on his first pick six of his career last week at Atlanta. No Patriots player has ever returned an interception for a touchdown in back-to-back games.
•Quarterback wins are a dodgy stat — football is the ultimate team game — but Mac Jones’ seven wins are the most in a season by a Patriots rookie quarterback, surpassing the six wins by Jim Plunkett in 1971 and the five by Drew Bledsoe in 1993.
•With his next start, Devin McCourty will tie Hannah with 183 career starts, tied for the 3rd-most in team history behind the 283 by Brady and 212 by Armstrong. In addition, he has 36 career takeaways in the regular season–tied with Roland James for fourth all-time in team history.
•Matthew Judon leads the Patriots with 10½ sacks & is tied for 3rd-most in the NFL. With one more sack he’ll join Tony McGee, Andre Tippett, Chandler Jones, Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest & Garin Veris as the only Patriots players to reach at least 11 sacks in a single season.
The following players are inactive for today’s game against the Titans — they’re all healthy scratches:
LB Ronnie Perkins: The 6-foot-3, 2487-pound rookie linebacker out of Oklahoma has yet to play a game this season.
RB J.J. Taylor: The undersized back will sit against the Titans this afternoon, which likely means New England feels good about the health of Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris.
QB Jarrett Stidham: Stidham, who was seeing action on a semi-regular basis last year as Cam Newton’s backup, is now basically taking a developmental season. The feeling here is he’s being groomed to be Mac Jones’ No. 2.
TE Devin Asiasi: The youngster finds himself in the same situation as Taylor.
OL Yasir Durant: Another sign that the New England offensive line is a relatively healthy group.
Looking at season conditions for football this afternoon in Foxborough — expect temperatures in the 30s to low 40s with clouds and winds out of the southwest at 5 to 10 mph. There’s a roughly 10 percent chance of precipitation. Doesn’t look like it’ll be a weather game today at Gillette.
The only way to get ready for game day:
Welcome back to football, everyone, and the start of the post-Thanksgiving dash to the postseason. This afternoon, we have a compelling matchup on tap as the Patriots (7-4) look to take down the Titans (8-3) and cement a place near the top of the AFC standings. Keep it here all afternoon, because we’ll have all the updates you’ll need. That includes the latest from Foxborough, pregame betting information, a look around the league, weather news, inactive analysis, and much more. CUE THE THEME SONG.
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