…It’s not often that an opening kickoff can foreshadow a game’s outcome, but that’s how it felt when Titans return man Darius Jennings rambled 58 yards to the New England 40-yard line yesterday in Nashville.
The play was made possible in part because two Patriots cover guys, Jonathan Jones and Nate Ebner, who were seemingly in position to make a tackle around the Tennessee 20, overpursued on their angles to Jennings. He got by both of them, then a teammate threw a crucial block on the next would-be Patriots tackler, Chris Hogan.
…Another early indication of how this day would unfoled came on the very first play from scrimmage, when Titans WR Corey Davis hauled in a 24-yard pass from QB Marcus Mariota. CB Stephon Gilmore, who’s had a mostly strong 2018, was assigned to cover Davis most of the afternoon, and this was just the first of seven receptions (for 125 total yards) that Davis had against Gilmore.
Looked as if Gilmore was anticipating a deep route from Davis, who cut the route short and easily had separation from Gilmore to make this grab.
…At the end of this drive, Mariota found TE Jonnu Smith for an easy TD reception. Smith ran a simple crossing pattern through the end zone, but safety Patrick Chung was too slow to pursue.
…Wasn’t the best of days for any Patriot, including WR Josh Gordon. OC Josh McDaniels and QB Tom Brady seemed intent on trying to force-feed Gordon the ball, and after a brilliant 44-yard reception on New England’s opening drive, it’s somewhat understandable to see why. That was the first of four consecutive throws to Gordon – one catch went for no gain, another sailed over Gordon’s head, and the third went through his hands.
…In fairness to Gilmore, the first pass interference penalty he incurred against Davis was questionable at best. He appeared to make a great play on the ball and had every right to go after it. Incidental contact was made between him and Davis, sure, but no flag should have been thrown. Ticky-tack call by Bill Vinovich’s officiating crew.
…Gilmore, however, was beaten cleanly by Davis’ speed when he committed his second PI. This was wiped out, though, because Davis still made a tremendous over-the-shoulder catch with Gilmore dragging his right arm down before the ball arrived.
…The first of three Brady sacks came from a Titans blitz by LB Wesley Woodyard. RB James White, normally decent in blitz-pickup, did not do a good enough job on this particular play.
…Chung was again victimized by Smith, the tight end, on a short pass that Smith turned into a 29-yard gain. Chung simply lost his grip on Smith, whom he initially had wrapped up for what looked like a sure tackle.
…One of the only bright spots of the day for New England was seeing James Develin score a touchdown. The 2017 Pro Bowl fullback normally is asked to do the dirty work of blocking for others in the backfield, but McDaniels called a rare, old-school play – a traditional quick handoff to the fullback. Develin did the rest from one yard out and plunged into the end zone for the six points. Well deserved and long overdue for Develin.
…Center/co-captain David Andrews was beaten by DT Jurrell Casey on Brady’s second sack. Casey simply overpowered Andrews on a bull rush to get into the backfield. Casey was ruled offside, however, so, the sack was negated.
…Delayed blitz by LB Elandon Roberts gave New England its first sack of Mariota.
…On the opposite end of the spectrum, it looked as if Roberts whiffed on a tackle as he shot through a huge hole that RB Derrick Henry plowed through en route to the Titans’ third TD of the first half.
…The Titans pressured Brady consistently all through the first half, and on the final play of it, CB Logan Ryan took advantage of this. Feeling the heat from his perimeters, Brady stepped up in the pocket and Ryan had a clear shot at him, coming on a corner blitz. Ryan had the luxury of abandoning his man on this play because it was clearly going to be a Hail Mary situation, so, he knew he had help deep.
…LB Jayon Brown registered Tennessee’s third official sack of the day when he beat LT Trent Brown with a simple speed rush off the edge.
…A 3rd-and-10 play in the early third quarter proved costly for the Patriots. Both Brown and TE Dwayne Allen were injured on the play. And it looked as it Brown might have caused Allen’s injury as the two collided while falling to the ground trying to pass protect for Brady. Allen made an effort to come back later, but both men had to leave the game eventually. Remains to be seen how long either man will be out. Allen injured his left knee, while Brown tweaked his back.
…Gilmore made a nice play to sack Mariota by coming on a corner blitz.
…Facing a very makeable 4th-and-1 from the Tennessee 37 with 11 minutes to play in the game, the Patriots lost five yards when RT Marcus Cannon false started.
On the subsequent 4th-and-6, Hogan was wide open down the right sideline after beating CB Malcolm Butler with a nice move. Had Brady thrown to Hogan, it might have been a touchdown. Instead, Brady threw over the middle to Edelman, and Ryan batted the ball to the ground for a turnover on downs.
Down 27-10 at that point, any chance of New England’s coming back in this game evaporated.