In their first game of the postseason, the New England Patriots slayed the fifth seeded Tennessee Titans by a score of 35-7.
After starting the game of sluggish, the New England Patriots shook of the rust and showed up to play in the second quarter. At the start of that quarter, New England was trailing 7-0. By halftime, the Patriots were ahead 21-7. From that point on, New England would not look back.
- See You Next Week – While it seems like a formality at this point, the Patriots will be advancing to an unprecedented seventh straight AFC Championship game appearance. On top of that, it is the 12th appearance in 17 seasons. The opponent is not yet known, but what is certain is that at 3:05 pm next Sunday, New England will be hosting yet another conference championship game at Gillette Stadium.
- James White – During the final month or so of the season, the offense of the Patriots struggled at times. In that time frame, James White was banged up. He returned for the playoffs and his presence was felt almost immediately. White had two touchdowns in the game, one rushing and one receiving. His return should help create more mismatches in next week’s AFC Championship game.
- Tom Brady – As Brady goes, so does the offense. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that while the offense struggled during the last month, Brady wasn’t at this best either. Perhaps a week off is exactly what the doctor ordered for the 40 year old quarterback. Saturday night’s game was the best Brady has looked since November. Brady threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. His strong play propelled the offense. Surprise, surprise.
- Pass Rush – During the majority of the season, the pass rush for New England was non-existent. In the past few weeks their pass rush has started to come along. The Patriots got to Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota eight times in the victory. Geneo Grissom and Deatrich Wise Jr. each had two sacks. The eight sacks could be skewed due to the score, however the emergence of a pass rush is certainly encouraging.
- Danny Amendola – Surprisingly, Tom Brady had one of his worst seasons statistically when facing the blitz in 2017. Why is that relevant? Well, Tennessee defensive coordinator, Dick Lebeau, loves to bring extra pressure on the quarterback. Knowing this, Amendola filled in for Julian Edelman admirably. Amendola had 11 catches for 112 yards. With the competition getting tougher, it is important for Brady to have an outlet receiver that he knows can get open quickly. Amendola showed that ability tonight.
- Offensive Line – Perhaps thanks to the New York Giants two Super Bowl victories over the Patriots, the blueprint to beat New England in the playoffs has been to bring pressure up the middle. In this game, the offensive line was able to keep Brady upright all game long. Brady wasn’t sacked in the victory. That allowed the Patriots to keep moving the ball downfield and move the chains on third downs.
With New England hosting the AFC Championship game next week, the easy guess is that there will be a matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers for a second time this season and second straight AFC title game. Although, the Jacksonville Jaguars are standing in the way of that. In fact, the Jaguars may actually be a tougher matchup for the Patriots. The defense of Jacksonville could be able to stifle the Patriots if they were to meet. It will be interesting to see who makes the trip to Gillette Stadium next weekend.