When the Patriots ran:
The Patriots got Sony Michel back after a two-game absence but the running game was non-existent. Part of that was due to the early hole the Patriots dug in Nashville but that wasn’t the entire story. Michel carried 11 times for just 31 yards for a 2.8-yard average. Cordarrelle Patterson as expected was reduced to fill-in duty after receiving some carries in Michel’s absence but he was unable to get anything going either. He carried four times just 11 yards in garbage time carries down the stretch. Overall the Patriots running game, which was operating with some health issues up front without Shaq Mason (calf) and at times Trent Brown (back) out, finished with just 40 yards on 19 carries as New England was forced to go one-dimensional playing catch-up virtually the entire second half.
When the Patriots passed:
Tom Brady and the passing game never looked comfortable in Nashville and the blowout ensued as a result. Brady was under pressure early and often, and that seemed to know him out of rhythm right from the start. He completed just 21 of 41 passes for 254 yards and failed to throw a touchdown pass for the second time in three weeks. His 70.6 passer rating was his second-lowest of the season (65.1 at Detroit in Week 3). He was sacked three times and avoided several others by evading the rush in the pocket. When he was able to throw he was often off target. Specifically he missed James White on a third-and-four in the second quarter when he yanked a throw to the left sideline wide of his target. He also sailed a couple well over the head of Josh Gordon, and in fairness was victimized by a couple of bad drops by Gordon as well. Julian Edelman was the only reliable target, catching nine passes for 104 yards, but he was real quiet early when the Titans were establishing control. He was also blanketed by Logan Ryan on a key fourth-and-six early in the fourth quarter as the Patriots were desperately trying to come back down 17. White was effectively taken out the game by Titans safety Kevin Byard, who limited him to five catches for just 31 yards. Give coaches Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees credit for a terrific game plan against their former team.
When the Titans ran:
Tennessee came out firing on offense with a highly motivated Dion Lewis ripping off chunks of yardage in the ground game. Things eventually settled down and finished with just 57 yards on 20 carries, which translates to a terrible 2.9-yard average. But the numbers don’t tell the entire story. Lewis was quite effective for the bulk of the day. His last five carries resulted in a total of just 6 yards, which brought his number way down. Early on when the Titans assumed control, he was productive. Derrick Henry came off the bench and really finished off the Patriots. He picked up 58 yards on just 11 carries for a 5.3-tard average. He picked up 37 yards on five straight carries, the last resulting in a 10-yard touchdown that finished the scoring. Tennessee pounded away at the Patriots front to the tune of 36 carries for 150 yards and a 4.2-yard average. The Titans dominated up front.
When the Titans passed:
The Titans success on the ground wasn’t entirely unexpected. Marcus Mariota’s success throwing the ball was. Mariota entered the game with just one touchdown pass in his previous 27 quarters (and just five for the entire season). He threw a pair of scoring passes in the first quarter alone, and he did so by picking on Stephon Gilmore early and often. Mariota completed 16 of 24 passes for 228 yards with the two early touchdowns and then was content to run out the clock with a big lead. Most of his damage went to Corey Davis, who owned Gilmore throughout. David caught seven passes for 125 yards and also drew a pair of pass interference penalties from the corner. Gilmore was consistently chasing Davis, and truth be told he probably could have drawn at least one other penalty when he appeared to make contact early on another potential completion. Tight ends Jonnu Smith (three catches, 45 yards) and Harvard product Anthony Firkser (one catch, 11 yards) did damage in their limited opportunities as well. Little-used wideout Cameron Batson (two catches, 36 yards) made a couple of big plays as the Titans consistently had the Patriots defense on its heels.
Tennessee completed the clean sweep with some solid work in the kicking game that began immediately. The Patriots continue to have Stephen Gostkowski kick off short of the goal line despite their season-long struggles covering them. Darius Jennings ripped off a 58-yard return back to the Patriots 40 to set up the first touchdown of the day. Meanwhile Tennessee had Ryan Succop boot five touchbacks and stopped Patterson short of the 25 on his only two returns. Adoree Jackson was also effective returning Ryan Allen’s punts. He recorded returns of 15, 12 and 15 yards, twice allowing Tennessee to take over in Patriots territory. New England also added 5 yards to the 12-yard return for having an illegal man downfield. Gostkowski booted an early 52-yard field goal but later hooked another 52-yarder wide left. Succop was perfect on PATs (4-for-4) and FGs (2-for-2) while Brett Kern averaged over 48 yard a punt. The lone bright spot again was Edelman, who turned in 18- and 12-yard punt returns. Not a good day in Nashville all around.