By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — To say the Patriots put forth their worst effort of the season Sunday afternoon in Tennessee is misleading.
That implies that there was at least some effort, and that did not appear to be the case throughout New England’s 34-10 loss to the Titans. The Patriots were outplayed in every phase of the game, and the guy on the sideline was out-coached by one of his former players. The offense was sluggish from the get-go, and their only touchdown came from a fullback. The defense was a step behind all day and forgot how to tackle. The Titans even won the special teams battle, and did so convincingly.
Even when the Patriots lose, we usually highlight a few “ups” after the game. That will not be the case this time around, because there were no “ups” Sunday afternoon in Tennessee. And this is not just your typical Boston sports fan demanding perfection. Sunday was frustratingly embarrassing and it continues a worrisome trend for this Patriots team, which has struggled on the road all season. All three of their losses have come away from Gillette Stadium.
If you can stomach it, here’s everything that went wrong for the Patriots on Sunday:
Dud From The Start
The Titans had a nearly perfect first half. The Patriots did not.
It was a rough start from the get-go, as the special teams unit let Darius Jennings return the opening kickoff 58 yards. The Titans marched 40 yards in seven plays and found the end zone when Marcus Mariota hit a wide open Jonnu Smith for a four-yard score.
The New England offense answered with a 53-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, but the Titans then put together a nine-play, 78-yard touchdown drive, capped off with a 23-yard scoring strike from Mariota to Corey Davis. Mariota had just one touchdown pass in his previous 27 quarters heading into Sunday’s game. He had two in the first quarter against New England.
When the defense did finally force a Titans punt, the Patriots offense couldn’t make anything of it. Brady started the drive with a 30-yard connection with Julian Edelman, but the Pats picked up one yard on their next three plays (and five yards thanks to a Titans penalty). It set up a 52-yard attempt by Stephen Gostkowski, which he sent wide left. The Patriots punted away their next possession and then couldn’t even get close enough for another Gostkowski attempt ahead of halftime.
The Titans, meanwhile, added a one-yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry (he went into the end zone untouched). The 24 points allowed in the first half were the most the New England D has allowed all season.
Gilmore’s Tough Day
Stephon Gilmore has had a solid season, but he had no answers for Corey Davis on Sunday.
Davis was nearly unstoppable, finishing with seven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. Gilmore was left chasing him for much of the afternoon, and was also hit with a pair of pass interference penalties.
Brady Not Very GOAT-Like
Tom Brady was not himself on Sunday. He made a few of those throws that only Tom Brady can make, but he had a handful of others that sailed over their intended receivers. In a few cases, it looked like Brady had broken out a knuckleball. At one point in the second quarter, Brady threw six straight incompletions, which just doesn’t happen with No. 12.
Brady completed only 11 of his 23 passes in the first half and ended his 21-for-41 for 254 yards (a day that ended early when Brian Hoyer took over in the fourth quarter). Brady struggled to spread the love, with Edelman and Josh Gordon accounting for 185 of those yards.
No Run Game
The Patriots finished with just 40 rushing yards against the Titans. The offensive line struggled to open up holes, and Sony Michel (back from injury) mustered just 31 yards on 11 carries. Cordarrelle Patterson got four carries toward the end of the game and picked up 11 yards, but James White lost five yards on his only rush of the game.
The offense converted on just three of their 15 third-down tries. The Patriots went three-and-out four times on Sunday.
Early in the fourth quarter, Josh McDaniels went back into his bag of tricks. It did not work.
Facing a 3rd-and-7, Brady gave James White the handoff. White pitched the ball to Edelman on an end-around, who followed with a jump pass to Brady down the right side. Brady had some open field to run, but tripped over himself and was brought down a yard short of moving the chains. That about sums up the afternoon for the Patriots, though more often than not, they came up a lot shorter than just one yard against the Titans.
That trick play also didn’t do much of anything, as Marcus Cannon jumped early on the ensuing 4th-and-1, pushing the Patriots back five more yards. It essentially wiped out the Brady reception.
Brady couldn’t connect with Edelman over the middle on New England’s 4th-and-6 attempt, as his pass was knocked away by former Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan. That sealed it for Tennessee, and was the last throw Brady made in the game.
The Chiefs improved to 9-1 with a win over the Cardinals on Sunday. The Patriots now sit two games back of the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture.