FOXBORO (CBS) — Sunday’s Patriots-Titans game at Gillette Stadium was close for a while. It was only a three-point game as the two teams went into the locker room.

But then the Patriots defense locked things down. When it looked like the Titans had a chance to take control, the defense punched the ball out and gave it back to the offense. The D forced three second-half turnovers, including one on a fourth down at the two-yard line. Tennessee had a three-and-out and a four-and-out in the second half.

The defense completely shut the door on the Titans in the second half on Sunday, and the New England offense did what they had to do to take advantage of the short fields that they were given. Mix in some solid special teams play, and the Patriots walked off the field with a sixth straight win on Sunday.

The Titans are banged up at the moment, but the Patriots beat a good team on Sunday, and did so convincingly. Remember when New England was 2-4 way back when? They are now the hottest team in the NFL at 8-4. The Patriots haven’t lost since mid-October and will be playing to secure first place in the AFC East — and potentially first place in the AFC — next Monday night in Buffalo.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s examine the Ups and Downs from Sunday’s 36-13 win over the Titans.

Ups

Creating Turnovers

The New England defense is just terrifying at the moment. They created three more turnovers on Sunday, and are now a plus-14 in turnover differential over the last six games.

Their turnover differential over the first six weeks? Minus-three. It all boils down to taking care of the football — and taking it away from your opponents.

The Patriots did the latter very well on Sunday. After the Pats got a field goal on their first possession of the second half, J.C. Jackson got things started for the defense by punching the ball out on what was a 30-yard run by D’Onta Foreman. It was a huge play, with momentum shifting Tennessee’s way at that point in the game. But what should have been a huge play for the Titans ended with the ball back in the hands of the Patriots.

As Jackson explained after the game: “See ball, get ball.”

After the Pats scored a touchdown later in the third quarter, the Titans went on a 14-play drive that ate eight minutes off the clock. But it didn’t result in any points, because Mr. INT himself came down with Ryan Tannehill’s end zone pass for Cody Hollister. Devin McCourty got a hand on the pass, tipping it to Jackson for his seventh interception of the season.

“You leave any trash laying around, he’s going to pick it up,” Bill Belichick said of Jackson after the game.

Titans fullback Khari Blasingame had a late fumble as well, giving the Patriots four takeaways for the afternoon. Three of those came when the Titans were in New England territory.

It didn’t matter that the offense wasn’t at its best (the Pats still punted just once). With all of those extra possessions, New England was going to be hard to beat on Sunday.

That Touchdown Pass…

Mac Jones didn’t have his best passing day, but his touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne to get the scoring started was a thing of beauty. A perfect back-shoulder pass where only Bourne could catch it despite having a defender in his face.

Great pass by Jones. Great catch by Bourne. And points for New England.

…And That Touchdown Catch And Run

The duo’s second touchdown connection of the day was even better. Bourne did most of the work, tip-toeing along the sideline while also running by the majority of the Tennessee defense.

Bourne has become quite the playmaker in recent weeks. He had five catches for 61 yards on Sunday, and now has 13 receptions for 201 yards and three touchdowns over the last three games.

Matt Judon

Here is our obligatory mention that Matt Judon is a monster. Because that man is a monster, and is on a collision course with the NFL’s Defensive MVP award this season.

Judon sacked Tannehill on third-and-3 on Tennessee’s opening drive to force a three-and-out. He tallied two QB hits, six total tackles and a tackle for loss the rest of the way.

He’s now up to 11.5 sacks for the season, good for the third-most sacks in the first 12 games of the season in Pats team history. Judon trails only Andre Tippett’s 13.5 sacks in 1985 and Tipp’s 12 sacks through 12 games in 1984.

Nick Folk

If it wasn’t for Judon, Folk may be the team’s MVP this season. He connected on five of his six field goals on Sunday and all three of his extra points, accounting for half of New England’s points. Folk was good from 22, 37, 44, 28, and 52 yards out, while his only miss came from 53 yards out at the end of the first half.

Downs

Mac’s Miss

The end of the first half was not the best few minutes of football by New England.

The Patriots were gifted a possession just before halftime when Dontrell Hilliard fumbled, and they could have added a touchdown to the scoreboard. But Mac put a little too much cheese on his third-and-7 throw, which sailed too high for Hunter Henry as the tight end coasted into the end zone. It’s a throw that the rookie will be thinking about a lot this week.

Nick Folk kicked a field goal, but the Patriots had only a 16-6 lead at that point instead of a 20-6 lead.

Hilliard’s Big Run

The practice squad running back made up for his fumble late in the first half by breaking off a 68-yard touchdown run just before halftime. A huge hole opened for Hilliard on a third-and-3 with 48 seconds left, and he hit it with some authority. He outran Devin McCourty and Kyle Dugger on his way to the end zone, making it a 20-13 game at the break.

What could have been a blowout in the making (had Mac hit a wide open Henry) turned into a whole new ballgame in just a few seconds before halftime.

Run Defense Not So Great

It was an overall tough day for New England’s run defense, which allowed 270 yards and 6.9 yards per carry. The Hilliard touchdown run just cannot happen. At least the other big run by Tennessee — the 30-yard scamper by Foreman — ended on a high note for the Patriots.

Judon said after the game that giving up that many yards but only 13 points is something the defense can live with — but only once.

Red Zone

It was nice to see Folk have such a big day, but he wouldn’t have been needed as much if the Patriots were a little bit better in the red zone. New England was just 2-for-5 in the red area.

CBSBoston.com Staff