The Titans pulled off an epic rally last Saturday to upset the Chiefs in the Wild Card Round. Now they’ll have to defeat another favored opponent who knows a little something about monumental playoff comebacks — the New England Patriots. The two teams will meet on Saturday in the Divisional Round; kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on CBS (live stream).
Tennessee trailed 21-3 at halftime before snapping to life in the third quarter. Third-year quarterback Marcus Mariota had a modest performance through the air, but his will to win manifested itself on the ground, with important yard-churning blocks, and even as a receiver for his own batted pass as the Titans clawed back to devastate Kansas City. He’ll need to be even better on Saturday to topple a Patriot defense left with plenty to prove.
New England’s 2-2 start was defined by its cheesecloth defense. The Pats gave up a league-high 32 points per game and threw the Belichick-Brady dynasty into question before rebounding to become the league’s stingiest unit. Since Week 5, no team in the NFL has allowed fewer points than New England’s 14.0 per game. Brady’s team is 11-1 in that span.
That leaves Mariota and his offense an even taller task than beating the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. Foxborough will be rocking thanks to yet another home game for the Patriots. Will it be enough to negate the Titans’ momentum?
Time, TV channel, and streaming info
Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Streaming: NFL on CBS
Odds: New England is favored by 13.5 points.
The Titans, who haven’t won a postseason game since 2003, are not ready to wave the white flag.
“It’s a playoff game, so it’s not like it’s the preseason where I can go out there, [say] ‘Oh, it’s Brady,’ and I’m chillin,’ ” said Tennessee safety Kevin Byard, who tied for the league lead in interceptions. “This is a playoff game. So I don’t really care if it was Joe Montana. You know what I’m saying?
“I’m trying to go out there and win the game. I want to make him look like [Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback] Blake Bortles if I can to try to catch a couple picks.
“Tom Brady is a great quarterback, but it’s a playoff game.”
This pits the oldest and youngest quarterbacks in the playoffs. Brady is 40, Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota is 24.
Those 16 years represent the biggest age gap for starting quarterbacks in postseason history.
Since Brady took over as New England’s starter in 2001, quarterbacks making their first or second postseason start against the Patriots are 0-7. But Brady downplayed the experience-versus-youth story line.
“It just comes down to how well you play,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about old guys are going to win or young guys are going to win, the home team, the road team.
“It’s really going to come down to execution. No one’s going to be able to do it for you.”
6 — Consecutive wins over Tennessee by New England.
8 — Interceptions by Byard, tying him for the NFL lead.
9 — Touchdown receptions in the playoffs by Rob Gronkowski, most by a tight end in NFL history.
14 — Patriots with at least 10 games of postseason experience, the most in this playoff field.
191 — Yards from scrimmage against Kansas City last weekend by the Titans’ Derrick Henry, a Titans record.
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which is for season (league rank in parentheses):
Tennessee: 20.9 (T18) New England: 28.6 (T2)
Tennessee: 22.2 (17) New England: 18.5 (5)
Tennessee: 199.4 (23) New England: 276.1 (2)
Tennessee: 114.6 (15) New England: 118.1 (10)
Tennessee: 239.2 (25) New England: 251.2 (30)
Tennessee: 88.8 (4) New England: 114.8 (20)
Tennessee: 43 (T5) New England: 42 (T7)
Tennessee: 49.0 (5) New England: 52.2 (8)
Tennessee: -4 (24) New England: +6 (11)