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Game Observations: Titans close out Patriots

The Patriots fell to the Titans in a disappointing end to their 2019 season, bowing out in the Wild Card round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009.


The Patriots fell to the Titans in a disappointing end to their 2019 season, bowing out in the Wild Card round of the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Derrick Henry ran for 182 yards, but the defense gave the offense multiple opportunities to take the game over, but as was the case for most of the season, Tom Brady and his weapons couldn't put touchdowns on the board.

The Titans got a one-point lead just before halftime and made it stand up, holding New England scoreless in the second half and winning the game 20-13.

Sadly, it was a fitting end as it was the weaknesses this Patriots team exhibited all season that ultimately doomed their season – their inability to find secondary targets, the lack of finish of the red zone and overall inconsistency. The 2019 Patriots defense was very good but ultimately it wasn't enough to save an offense that never found their stride.

Here's everything that stood out in the season-ending loss that now sets the Patriots on an uncertain course for the offseason.

-The Patriots offense opened the game with a spread attack, featuring four receivers and James White, and got a big third down conversion to Ben Watson for 21 yards, then a 29-yard screen pass to James White. They even tried a double-pass that was well-covered. Some early tricks and getting away from their usual plan of testing out the running game still couldn't produce a touchdown though as they'd settle for a 36-yard field goal by Nick Folk.

-The Titans would respond with a methodical drive, moving down the field at will and going 75 yards in 12 plays, finishing it off with a third-down touchdown from 12 yards out. Derrick Henry had 49 yards rushing on the drive as the Titans did exactly what they've been doing of late, dominating on offense. The Patriots relied heavily on their 3-4 defense which is supposed to be how they stop the run, but they had no answer on the first drive.

-Patrick Chung was injured on the first defensive drive, a big blow to the defense as he's a vital matchup piece and the Titans made the Patriots pay immediately, targeting Terrence Brooks in coverage for the touchdown.

-Down 7-3, the Patriots offense returned to the field and put together one of their better drives of the season, highlighted by a 25-yard run by Sony Michel and 11-yard passes to Mohamed Sanu and Ben Watson. Julian Edelman would finish the drive off with a five-yard jet sweep to regain the lead for the Patriots. It was Edelman's first career rushing touchdown and he became just the second Patriot to run, throw and catch a touchdown in a season (David Patten). The balanced drive featured contributions from everyone as it was an excellent response after the Titans made it look easy on their first touchdown drive.

-Energized by the offensive score and the playoff crowd, the defense would force a three-and-out on the Titans next possession as Adam Butler would get up and bat Ryan Tannehill's third-down pass down. The Patriots would pick up one first down on their next drive but a fullback handoff to Elandon Roberts on third-and-1 would be stopped well short and they'd be forced to punt it back to the Titans.

-The Patriots defense pitched another three-and-out and it all started by holding Henry to just a one-yard gain on first down. Without Patrick Chung the defense couldn't use their lighter 3-4 front featuring Chung at LB and Simon at DE, so they tacked to their 2-4-5 front and got aggressive, with Simon and Jamie Collins attacking the line of scrimmage.

-The Patriots offense came back on the field and put together another excellent drive, going down the field with confidence as the Titans defense was on their heels and unsure of what was coming next. But three straight runs would stall out inside the Titans five-yard-line and they'd have to settle for a field goal that extended the lead to 13-7. Despite not getting into the end zone it was a well-balanced 10-play drive. This was as good a first half as we've seen from the 2019 Patriots offense but the lack of red zone finish was huge as it had been all season.

-With just over two minutes before the half, the Titans took over and got a 29-yard run by Henry on the first play to kick start a drive. They'd get a 22-yard screen pass to Henry a few plays later that got them inside the one-yard-line and then Henry would take it in to give the Titans the lead. It was the second week in a row of terrible situational football at the end of the first half. To get stopped on the goal line then give up a touchdown-scoring drive before the half was a key turning point in the game. It could've been 17-7 Patriots, instead the Titans took a 14-13 lead into the locker room.

-The defense would come out and start the third quarter with an impressive defensive stand, forcing a punt and avoiding a two-score hole. It was a much-needed rebound and again, it started with success on first down. The Titans formula wasn't hard to figure out but it was hard to stop.

-It looked like the Patriots got a huge 38-yard play to Ben Watson on the next possession, but Shaq Mason was flagged for being downfield. It came late in the down as Brady scrambled so it wasn't a surprise to see the flag but it was a big turning point after it appeared the Patriots were on their way toward taking back the lead. Jake Bailey wouldn't help matters with a 29-yard punt that set the Titans up at their 43-yard-line.

-A first-down stumble by Henry had the Patriots in good position, but an 18-yard pass interference penalty on Jonathan Jones took the Titans into New England territory. The defense would recover, after a Kyle Van Noy forced fumble that Tannehill recovered himself set the Titans back and then J.C. Jackson got a pass defense on third down to force a Titans punt. It was a nice defensive stand, the second by the defense in the quarter. After ending the first half on a down note the defense came to play in the second half and started making plays.

-Despite a pretty third down laser from Tom Brady the offense couldn't put a drive together on their next possession and would be forced to punt.

-Duron Harmon would grab the first turnover of the game, picking off a poor throw by Ryan Tannehill on the first play of the fourth quarter. Unfortunately the offense couldn't get anything going, trying a shot downfield to Dorsett on first down that fell incomplete. Not even a first down from a holding call could spark them as another Jake Bailey punt sailed into the end zone. After a season of pinning teams deep, Bailey didn't have his best game in some critical spots.

-The Titans offense would find life on their next drive, aided by an injury to Stephon Gilmore who came out of the game. But the bread and butter continued to be the run as they'd get to the New England 39 before fumbling a third-down snap and being forced to punt. It was another quality stop by the Patriots defense in the second half.

-The Patriots offense would get the ball back at their 11-yard-line and get a 20-yard checkdown to James White on the first play. But it wouldn't jump start anything after an Edelman drop and an incomplete to Phillip Dorsett forced them to punt the ball back to the Titans. The Edelman drop loomed large as the crunch time drive fizzled out. He's made plenty of those plays over the years and in bigger playoff games but this time it was not to be.

-With the season hanging in the balance, the Patriots defense took the field with 3:04 left in the game down by one point. They'd get to a third down but Tannehill would make the throw to Anthony Firkser with Terrence Brooks in coverage. It was a key moment where the Patriots missed Patrick Chung. Derrick Henry would bust off an 11-yard gain on the next play, but New England would force another third down and get the stop to receive one final punt from the Titans. That punt would roll all the way down to the Patriots one-yard-line as they'd sell out for the punt block and have no returner back.

-The game would effectively end on the next play from the one-yard-line as Brady would throw a pick-six to Logan Ryan while targeting Sanu. It was a tough pill to swallow with what might've been the last pass of Brady's career ending in a game-sealing score for the Titans.

The playoffs have a way of showing who teams really are and that was what happened to the Patriots. The defense made enough plays to open the door for the offense to win, but the offense never found consistency, especially in crunch time when everything was on the line. Simply the lack of finish in the red zone doomed their season and it was a problem that haunted them all season.

There are plenty of questions about where the Patriots go from here and now the long, cold offseason begins for them.

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