Posted on January 14, 2018, by Travis Pulver

There was not much hope for the Tennessee Titans entering Saturday night’s divisional round game against the New England Patriots. But for a brief time during the early moments of the game, it looked like they might give the Patriots a game. A very brief moment, that is.

The moment lasted up until Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota injured his quad during a run in the first quarter. He and the Titans offense looked pretty good during an 11-play, 95-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter that gave Tennessee the lead, 7-0.

Via @ProViralMedia

“It had an impact, obviously,” Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said (ESPN). “We had to get out of some of our scheme we had with him, some of our zone scheme.”

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New England tied the game up on the next drive. A penalty helped the Patriots force a three and out on Tennessee’s next drive which Tom Brady followed up with another touchdown drive to give New England a 14-7 lead.

Tennessee needed to respond on the next drive. When Mariota hit Eric Decker with a 22-yard pass on the first play, it looked like they might. But New England’s defense took over again and forced another punt.

Had Tennessee’s defense been able to hold New England, there still might have been hope. But Tom Brady was not going to be denied. It took 16-plays, but a four-yard pass from Chris Hogan completed the 91-yard drive and gave the Patriots a 21-7 lead.

The Patriots defense went on to dominate the Titans in the second half. With Mariota unable to scramble effectively, Tennessee was unable to mount any kind of offense. After putting up a decent fight in the first half, the Titans had -1 yards on offense prior to their garbage-time touchdown drive (16 plays, 80-yards) late in the fourth quarter.

New England tacked on two more touchdowns in the second half to make the final 35-14.

Tom Brady added another 300+ yards, three touchdown playoff game to his resume. Danny Amendola was his favorite target with 11 receptions for 112 yards. The Patriots defense recorded a new franchise playoff high with eight sacks.

The Patriots will face the winner between Jacksonville and Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship- their seventh consecutive trip to the conference title game.

Via @YourSports

The Aftermath

Tennessee fans can take some solace that the team looked good up until Mariota’s injury. New England may have run away with the game anyway, but they may not have. But they will need to improve if they are going to make it back next season.

“Hopefully, people use this as motivation,” Mariota said after the game (ESPN). “Yeah, it’s nice to get in the playoffs, but you don’t play to just get in, especially coming in the divisional playoff and losing the way we did.”

New England may be looking at a grand end to an era. Tom Brady has given no indication that he may decide to call it quits should the Patriots win another Super Bowl. But there is a strong chance the Patriots will lose both coordinators to head coaching vacancies.

Could their departure make a difference next season? History would say probably not, but something has to eventually catch up with the Patriots.

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