By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
Final: Patriots 35, Titans 14
For the seventh straight year, the Patriots are heading to the AFC championship game.
Brady was phenomenal, throwing for 337 yards and three touchdown. Gronk, James White and Chris Hogan each caught touchdown passes from Brady, with White and Brandon Bolden finding the end zone on the ground as well. The New England defense was dominant as well, sacking Marcus Mariota eight times to set a new franchise record in the postseason.
Stick with us throughout the night for a complete breakdown this performance by the Patriots. And be sure to catch all the reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter on WBZ-TV.
4th Quarter, 1:55: Tennessee went with an onside kick but it didn’t go far enough. And now we’ve entered Hoyer time.
4th Quarter, 1:55 — Patriots 35, Titans 14
Corey Davis hauled in his second score of the night, a nice 11-yard garbage time grab in the end zone.
The best part is that it didn’t spark a lengthy review.
4th Quarter, 3:25: Geneo Grissom gets to Mariota for New England’s seventh sack of the night. That’s a new franchise record for the Patriots in the postseason.
4th Quarter, 4:15: It didn’t take long for the refs to confirm the call. Bill just doesn’t want this game to end.
4th Quarter, 4:15: Jones walked off the field, and when he did, Belichick decided to throw his challenge flag.
He is challenging a catch by Decker at the sideline. After picking the flag back up, he tossed it in the air but couldn’t come down with the catch. Bad form, Bill. Bad form.
4th Quarter, 4:15: Jonathan Jones is down on the turf and in quite a bit of pain.
4th Quarter, 5:57: The Pats are just having some fun now, as Brady chucked up a deep bid for Cooks on a third-and-9. Cooks didn’t time his jump too well and it fell incomplete, so the Titans will get the ball back with under six minutes to go.
4th Quarter, 10:22 — Patriots 35, Titans 7
There’s your weekly Gronk spike. Brady hits his tight end in the end zone from four yards out and the Patriots have 35 unanswered points.
For Gronk, it’s his sixth straight playoff game with a touchdown catch. For Brady, he now has 10 playoff games with three touchdown passes, breaking Joe Montana’s record.
4th Quarter, 11:50: You can probably guess who called his own number on a third-and-1.
Pats now have a first-and-goal from the Tennessee 4-yard line after Brady jumps over the line.
4th Quarter, 12:59: Danny is going off tonight. He has six third-down conversions and is up to 11 catches for 112 yards after hauling in a 12-yard pass from Brady on third-and-10. Pats are threatening again with the ball at the Tennessee 16.
End 3rd Quarter — Patriots 28, Titans 7
Brady had approximately three days in the pocket, and casually hit Amendola over the middle for 25 yards on a second-and-8 pass. Amendola has 10 grabs for 100 yards, his first career 100-yard postseason game.
3rd Quarter, 1:26: Brady and White connect over the middle for 14 yards on third-and-5 to keep the drive alive for the Patriots.
3rd Quarter, 2:20: Mariota goes to Henry for six meaningless yards, and the Titans will be forced to punt again.
3rd Quarter, 3:31: Trey Flowers gets to Mariota for New England’s fifth sack of the game. Titans will now face a third-and-22.
3rd Quarter, 3:55: Titans tight end Jonnu Smith is being carted off the field after having his ankle rolled up on.
3rd Quarter, 4:02 — Patriots 28, Titans 7
Another Patriots running back has found the end zone, but this time it’s none other than Brandon Bolden. It’s his first rushing touchdown since 2014, as he usually does his damage on special teams.
He went in untouched from two yards out thanks to a great block by Pro Bowler James Develin.
Caps off a nine-play drive that covered 56 yards in just over four minutes.
3rd Quarter, 6:47: Facing a third-and-3, Brady goes to Amendola over the middle to move the chains. Danny is up to seven catches for 62 yards.
3rd Quarter, 7:52: Brady hits Gronkowski for 27 yards on the first play of the drive, and the Patriots are already at the Tennessee 29. Whether it’s Byard or Cyprien (which it was in this case), the Titans are not having a fun time with that matchup.
3rd Quarter, 8:22: Mariota hit Henry for a 14-yard pickup over the middle, but on third-and-31 that doesn’t really do much but set up a better punt for the Titans.
That “better” punt went 39 yards and Amendola calls for a fair catch at the New England 45.
3rd Quarter, 9:05: The sack party continues, as Marquis Flowers brings down Mariota for an eight-yard loss. The Titans are backed up to their own 2-yard line and face third-and-31.
3rd Quarter, 10:25: Mariota goes down hard, as Ricky Jean Francois bursts into the backfield and brings down the QB. It’s his first sack with the Patriots, and sets up a second-and-23 deep in Tennessee territory.
3rd Quarter, 10:46: Brady and White couldn’t connect on a wheel route (the ole Shane Vereen disease) on third-and-13, so the Patriots will have to punt away their first possession of the second half.
3rd Quarter, 11:08: LaAdrian Waddle is limping off the field, so Cam Flemming will take over at right tackle.
3rd Quarter, 13:10: Mariota runs out of time in the pocket, and Adam Butler hits him for New England’s second sack of the game on third-and-7 to force a Tennessee punt. Solid play by the undrafted rookie.
3rd Quarter, 13:58: Henry made a nice run to pick up a first down on second-and-3, but a holding penalty brings it back. Titans will now face a second-and-13 at their own 22.
Halftime — Patriots 21, Titans 7
Gostkowski hooked it wide left, so the Pats head into the locker room with a 21-7 lead.
Brady has completed 21 of his 31 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, while Lewis has accounted for 105 of New England’s 256 yards. Mariota is 9-for-15 for 117 yards and a touchdown, but Henry has just 24 yards on 11 carries. The Titans didn’t do themselves any favors after taking a 7-0 lead, getting flagged for six penalties for 37 yards. The biggest was a neutral zone infraction on Brynden Trawick that gave the Patriots a fresh set of downs as they were set to punt from their own end zone. The Patriots promptly marched 91 yards down the field and Brady hit Hogan for a touchdown.
The Titans pulled off quite the comeback last Saturday in Kansas City. They’ll need more of that magic over the next 30 minutes here at Gillette if they want to keep the Patriots from advancing to their seventh straight AFC title game.
2nd Quarter, 00:01: The Patriots are certainly at Gillette Stadium, as Brady hits Amendola over the middle of the field and the clock freezes at one second as the Patriots call a timeout. Gostkowski will have a chance at a 53-yard field goal ahead of the half.
2nd Quarter, 00:06: Brady went to White on second-and-6, but his pass went off the running back’s fingertips.
2nd Quarter, 00:17: Titans called a run play, and Henry met a wall of Patriots defenders. He was hit for a five-yard loss, and the Pats will take over at the Tennessee 49.
The play makes no sense because unless Henry got out of bounds, the Titans couldn’t stop the clock. What a bunch of Mularkey.
The officials did miss a facemask on Kyle Van Noy on the play, which won’t make Titans fans feel any better about the way this game is going.
2nd Quarter, 00:25: The Titans call their final timeout of the half, which is odd because now they can’t stop the clock if the pick up the first down.
2nd Quarter, 00:25: Mariota called his own number on a third-and-10, but came up about a yard short of the first down before being tossed out of bounds. Titans will go for the fourth-and-1 at the New England 46.
2nd Quarter, 00:46: Mariota’s third-down bid for Decker fell incomplete over the middle, but Eric Rowe was flagged for illegal contact on the play and the Titans have a fresh set of downs near midfield.
That was a bad one, as Brady probably won’t get the ball back this half.
2nd Quarter, 00:50: Delanie Walker was banged up a few plays ago, with Patrick Chung landing on his ankle after a tackle, but he’s back out there giving it a go. He does not look well at the moment.
2nd Quarter, 1:52 — Patriots 21, Titans 7
Remember when the Patriots were punting in their own end zone a few minutes ago?
Brady caps off the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan in the end zone, and the Patriots have scored 21 unanswered points. It’s the 21st time Brady has thrown two or more touchdowns in a playoff game, adding to his own NFL record.
So instead a punt that would likely have given the Titans some great field position, the Patriots go on a 16-play, 91-yard drive that eats 5:18 off the clock.
2nd Quarter, 2:00: The Titans continue to hurt themselves, as Erik Walden was flagged for unnecessary roughness after a 7-yard reception by Amendola. The penalty moves the Pats down to the Tennessee 6-yard line.
2nd Quarter, 3:01: Brady fakes a screen on second-and-5, and goes back to Gronk over the middle for 13 yards to the Tennessee 20.
2nd Quarter, 3:59: Pats are in hurry-up again. Brady went to Gronk on third-and-4, and Byard had no chance on the play as Gronkowski came back after a quick out. Pats are down to the Tennessee 38.
2nd Quarter, 5:40: Brady and Cooks justttttttttttt missed on a deep ball that likely would have been another seven points for the Patriots if Brady hit Cooks in stride. He had Adoree Jackson beat by a few steps on the play.
2nd Quarter, 5:46: Bad stretch for the Titans. Johnathan Cyprien was flagged for illegal contact on a pass over the middle to Gronk.
2nd Quarter, 6:32: No three-and-out, as the Titans’ Brynden Trawick was flagged for a neutral zone infraction on the punt. It was originally called a false start on Geneo Grissom, but the refs got together and changed it, which will make Titans fans really pleased with the zebras.
Instead of a Patriots punt and getting the ball likely in New England territory, the Titans are back on defense.
2nd Quarter, 6:32: Big defensive stop by the Titans, as they force a quick three-and-out by the Patriots.
2nd Quarter, 7:41: The Titans picked up a first down on a nice 22-yard connection between Mariota and Decker on the first play, but the Pats D held after that. Eric Rowe made a nice tackle on Taywan Taylor in the middle of the field on third-and-7, keeping him two yards short of the first down.
2nd Quarter, 9:20 — Patriots 14, Titans 7
The call stands and the Patriots own a 14-7 lead after marching down the field in 1:58. Quite the efficient drive. The Titans D has no answer for the Patriots’ hurry-up after New England’s D forced a quick three-and-out.
Lewis had 23 of New England’s 48 yards on the drive, with White picking up the final 13. Cooks had the other 13 yards on the first play of the drive. Brady was a perfect 3-for-3, all short passes.
2nd Quarter, 9:20 — Patriots 13, Titans 7
James White does it again, taking it in from six yards out for his second touchdown of the game.
The play is under review, because it’s the NFL and they have some fancy TVs to use. There’s also a chance White’s knee was down before the ball crossed the line, so we shall see.
2nd Quarter, 10:36: A nine-yard run by Lewis has the Pats in the red zone in a hurry.
2nd Quarter, 11:01: Pats are going no huddle, as Brady hits Lewis for another eight yards on first down.
2nd Quarter, 11:11: Brady goes with a quick pass to Cooks on the left side on first down, and the receiver races to 13-yard pickup.
2nd Quarter, 11:23: The Titans are punting away after the Pats D forces a three-and-out.
After Eric Decker was flagged for an OPI on Malcolm Butler on a third-and-4 reception, Mariota went to Davis on a third-and-14 attempt. Gilmore had some nice defense on Davis, forcing the receiver to come down out of bounds.
2nd Quarter, 13:18 — Patriots 7, Titans 7
The drive belonged to Dion Lewis, but it was James White who found the end zone from five yards out on second-and-goal on a short pass by Brady.
With that, White is up to three receiving touchdowns in the playoffs, the most by a New England running back in team history.
The Pats answer Tennessee’s 95-yard drive with a 73-yard scoring drive of their own. Lewis accounted for 56 of those yards. He has 68 of New England’s 120 yards.
2nd Quarter, 13:55: Another big play for Lewis, as he takes another short pass from Brady 14 yards down to the Tennessee 5-yard line.
2nd Quarter, 14:36: The play was reversed, but still goes down as a 31-yard reception for Lewis. It’s New England’s biggest play of the game so far.
2nd Quarter, 14:46: Dion Lewis just took one to the house, but it will likely be called back. Lewis didn’t think he was down, but replays show his backside clearly landed on the ground (he must have thought he landed on a Titans defender, as did the officials who never blew a whistle).
The ruling on the field is a touchdown, but this one will be coming back. The play was a fake end-around to Cooks, and Brady hit Lewis with a short pass that he took 50 yards for the score (for now).
End 1st Quarter — Titans 7, Patriots 0
Not a great start for the New England offense, as they’ve punted away their first two possessions. We’ll see if they can answer Tennessee’s touchdown drive when the second quarter gets underway.
The Titans have out-gained the Patriots 108-70 so far, winning the time of possession battle as well, 8:42-6:18.
1st Quarter, 00:05: Brady took a beating as he got a first down pass out to Dion Lewis over the middle for five yards. But Brady has felt constant pressure and the Titans are getting their licks on the quarterback.
1st Quarter, 1:14 — Titans 7, Patriots 0
Well this is not the start anyone was expecting. Corey Davis beat Malcolm Butler (who had some good coverage on the play) and made a one-handed grab in the end zone to put the Titans on the board first. Not bad for a guy who didn’t have a touchdown during the regular season.
Extremely impressive 95-yard drive by the Titans, who converted a pair of third downs on their way to the end zone.
1st Quarter, 2:39: Solid start for Mariota so far, as he hits Rishard Matthews over the middle for eight yards on a third-and-3 to keep the drive alive.
1st Quarter, 4:35: Mariota just ran right through the New England zone to pick up 11 yards and move the chains for the Titans.
Titans right tackle Jack Conklin had his left leg rolled up on during the play, and it didn’t look good for the big man.
1st Quarter, 5:05: Stephon Gilmore made a great play to knock a second-down pass away from Corey Davis. Titans will face a third-and-7.
1st Quarter, 6:17: The Titans get some breathing room in a hurry, as Mariota hits Delanie Walker for 36 yards. He was wide open, and it took three Patriots to bring the tight end down at the Tennessee 41.
1st Quarter, 6:31: The Titans aren’t doing themselves any favors. Daren Bates was flagged for a hold on Ryan Allen’s punt, and they’ll have to start the drive at their own 5-yard line.
1st Quarter, 6:41: The Pats tried to take advantage of some Titans confusion on third-and-7, but Brady’s quick pass to Gronk was too low and they’ll be forced to punt it away again. Not a great start for the New England offense.
1st Quarter, 7:27: Facing a third-and-8, Brady got some great protection and hit Amendola over the middle for a 15-yard pickup. Pats are in Tennessee territory at the 49-yard line.
1st Quarter, 9:12: After a 12-yard punt return by Amendola, the Patriots will start their second drive at their own 34-yard line.
1st Quarter,9:22: Mariota goes down on third down, sacked by Deatrich Wise. The rookie has been a stud as of late.
1st Quarter, 10:03: Mariota didn’t like what he saw ahead of a third-and-7, so the Titans called their first timeout.
On the play before, Henry ran right at James Harrison. It didn’t work out well for the Titans running back as he was stuffed at the line.
1st Quarter, 12:43: The Patriots get to midfield on their first possession, but Brady felt some pressure on a third-and-6 and threw it way too short for Cooks on the right sideline.
So the Pats receive the kickoff, grab a first down, but then have to punt it away. So much for early pressure on the Tennessee offense.
The Titans will start deep in their own territory though, as Ryan Allen’s punt was fair caught at the Tennessee 8-yard line.
1st Quarter, 13:00: Facing a third-and-1, Brady had all the time in the world and hit Gronk for 14 yards. The Titans had only Byard on Gronkowski, which will likely change after that conversion.
Pregame — 8:15 p.m.: The Titans lost the toss, and the Patriots actually elected to receive.
Bill Belichick defers roughly 99.9 percent of the time. Maybe they want to put some pressure on the Tennessee offense early.
Pregame — 8:05 p.m.: Whoa boy, the Titans just held their pregame huddle on the Patriots logo at midfield.
Not that the Patriots really needed any, but that’s some nice last-minute bulletin board material right there. If the Patriots even noticed, that is.
Pregame — 7:45 p.m.: James Harrison is warming up with defensive starters. He could be a big part of the Patriots defense slowing down Derrick Henry tonight. Michael Hurley highlighted that possibility earlier this week.
Pregame — 7:30 p.m.: In a sure sign that there is some football to be played, Tom Brady has taken the field.
As Mike Reiss noted, Brady is once again sporting that scuba suit under his jersey on this chilly New England night. But as you can tell from the video, the cold temps haven’t cooled off the Foxboro crowd.
Pregame — 7:15 p.m.: The New England offense gets a pair of important pieces back in Hogan and White, though it will be interesting to see just how quickly they can shake off their injury rust.
Hogan missed seven of the final eight games with a shoulder injury, and didn’t look like himself at all in that one game he played. He had just one catch back on December 11 in a loss down in Miami, and the Pats shut him down for the rest of the regular season after that game. By all accounts he’s looked much better in practice, but we’ll see if he takes some time once tonight’s game gets going.
The receiver was having a career-year before his injury back on October 29, and in addition to giving Brady a reliable target over the middle, can also help stretch the field along with Cooks.
And White… well we all know what White can do. When healthy, he can be a nightmare for opposing defenses, giving Brady a target out of the backfield just when they think they have everyone bottled up.
With Burkhead still on the shelf, White will have a lot on his plate behind Dion Lewis.
Oh by the way, we’re only an hour away from kickoff.
Pregame — 6:50 p.m.: The inactives are out for both teams. Chris Hogan and James White will be back in action, while both Burkhead and Gillislee are indeed out. But there are a few other notable names on the list.
Defensive lineman Alan Branch and wide receiver Kenny Britt are also inactive for this one. Branch said he was good to go earlier this week after missing time with a knee injury, and said if he didn’t suit up come game time it was the coaching staff’s decision. It appears the coaching staff prefers sticking with Ricky Jean Francois behind Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown at nose tackle.
Britt being inactive isn’t too big of a shocker, especially with Hogan returning.
Here’s the full list of inactives for the Patriots:
And here are the inactives for the Titans:
No Weeden means old friend Matt Cassel is Tennessee’s backup QB tonight.
Pregame — 6:15 p.m.: We’re just a few hours away from kickoff at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots will host a Divisional Playoff game for the eighth straight season.
New England welcomes in the Tennessee Titans, who advanced last weekend with a surprising comeback win over the Chiefs in Kansas City. They come in heavy underdogs, with the Patriots 13.5 point favorites in this one.
There’s good reason for that lopsided spread, of course. The Patriots are the AFC’s top seed and tout a 20-4 record at home in their postseason history — the best among teams with at least 15 home playoff games. In the Divisional Round, they’re 14-6 all-time.
They also have that future Hall of Famer and favorite to win the MVP under center in Tom Brady, who is 11-2 in the Divisional Round. In these games, Brady has completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,700 yards and 26 touchdowns.
And if you’re one of those people questioning Brady’s focus these days, he arrived just after 1 p.m. this afternoon. So, as usual, No. 12 is laser-focused.
Brady will have most of his weapons tonight with Chris Hogan and James White both expected to return to action. Add them to the always dangerous duo of Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis along with Brandin Cooks (with a little Danny Amendola sprinkled in) and the Titans defense is going to have their hands full. However, running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee are not expected to play, so the offensive backfield will be a little thin this evening.
On the other side of the ball, the Patriots defense will have to worry about the rushing abilities of Derrick Henry and quarterback Marcus Mariota. Henry is coming off a monster game against the Chiefs, and though Mariota struggled in his third NFL season, he can make teams pay with both his arm and his legs. It’ll be imperative for the New England D to keep Mariota in the pocket and thinking quick, which doesn’t usually go well for young quarterbacks in Gillette (especially in the playoffs).
And if you’re reading this, you’re probably someplace warm. It’s going to be in the 20s in Foxboro throughout the game.
Stick with us throughout the night for all the updates before, during and after the game, which you can only see on WBZ-TV. A special edition of Patriots GameDay is coming at you at 7pm, and after the game they’ll bring you all the reaction and analysis (hopefully looking ahead to another AFC Championship Game) on Patriots 5th Quarter.