Among the intriguing storylines going into their matchup with the Tennessee Titans is the historic age gap between Brady and quarterback Marcus Mariota. You've got to make the tackles, you've got to make the throws, the catches, the blocks, the runs, whatever it takes.
"When he's on the field, there's no better tight end in the National Football League, and I think everyone knows that", said Patriots safety, a fellow captain. That's the fantasy stuff of comic books. Instead, he pulled out 30 minutes worth of inventive play-calling. "Just seeing him healthy throughout the year, and to produce at such a high level, is great". "They were young, many of them were in new roles". And indeed they were.
As for the Brady-Mariota matchup, it marks the second time they will face each other, though Mariota injured his knee early in the first matchup - a 33-16 Patriots win on December 20, 2015 - and played only 19 snaps that day. And there was nothing flukey about the protection Mariota got last week, or his acceleration out of the pocket.
No, the Titans won't beat New England. Everyone has worked pretty hard to get to this point. "We've had a good week watching film, getting ready to play a good team". RB Derrick Henry rushed for 156 yards and a TD last week, joining Eddie George (1/16/2000) as only players in team history with 150-plus yards rushing in postseason game ...
That's why I expect the entire divisional round of the playoffs to be closer to the noncompetitive Falcons-Rams game. With Murray injured, Henry was the workhorse against the Chiefs and will have to carry the load again in Foxborough since Murray has been ruled out. The Titans had several different players try their luck with the Chiefs' tight end, with little success. Still relatively unknown, Henry remains underrated and offers great value on the individual markets.More news: Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli troops in Gaza, West Bank
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However, it's not just mobile quarterbacks who have posed problems for the Patriots when it comes to scrambling.
Mariota is not a precision passer and the Titans don't have a bevy of playmakers, but he is talented dual-threat quarterback. At the same time, the Patriots have also dealt with injuries at the position and have been forced to rely upon Kenny Britt and Philip Dorsett. It could be any of Eric Decker, Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews who benefit. Kelce had four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown in the first half. And the Pats don't give up many deep balls. "I'm not really looking at it like that". "Definitely, I would say, patience is the virtue there". Because the Patriots are still monsters of offensive production. New England's defense has actually failed to force a turnover in three of its last four down the stretch so if Mariota can keep that number down, then Tennessee can keep the number of possessions down while increasing the Titans' chances to win. But Tom Brady and his vast array of receivers should run wild against Tennessee's very mediocre secondary. So that could mean a busier than usual night for Danny Amendola in the slot.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) walks.
"He saw some of the things that he missed by trying to bounce some things", Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. Heading into the playoffs, the familiar refrain of us against the world is mounting and his team is one that is talented enough to not need extra motivation.
"It's a playoff game, so it's not like it's the preseason where I can go out there, 'Oh, it's Brady, ' and I'm chillin, '" Tennessee All-Pro safety Kevin Byard said. "I love it", said Lance Stephenson, the Pacers' showman and one of six holdovers. But it's the man mountain Rob Gronkowski who should be the star.