Posted on January 5, 2020, by Travis Pulver
The regular season wasn’t the greatest for the New England Patriots this year. But the general assumption was that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would figure something out for the playoffs. That’s what they always do, so why wouldn’t this season be any different?
With as easy as the first two drives looked Saturday night, it seemed like that would be the case. But the Tennessee Titans—and especially Derrick Henry – had a different outcome in mind.
New England had not been in a wild card game in over a decade and didn’t have the best luck when the had been. While there were concerns about the offense heading into the game, the hope was that the defense could cover while the offense figured things out.
But that wasn’t how the game went.
With points on their first two drives, New England fans had reason to believe everything would be fine. Then the Titans defense and Derrick Henry took over the game.
Looking to go ahead 17-7 towards the end of the first half, the Patriots tried to finish off a drive with a run from the one-yard line. But the Titans defense held firm and forced the Patriots to settle for a field goal and a 13-7 lead at the time.
The Patriots drive left just 2:16 on the clock. So, the Titans didn’t have much time to make something happen before halftime.
As it turns out, they didn’t need that much time with how Derrick Henry was running the ball. With runs of 29, 11, and nine yards from Henry, the Titans offense moved quickly down the field.
A 22-yard reception and run by Henry got the ball to the one-yard line. Henry finished off the seven-play, 75-yard drive with a one-yard plunge to put the Titans ahead, 14-13, at the half.
At the half, the game looked like one the Patriots were ready to take over at any moment. They had outgained the Titans, 222 yards to 169 yards. But they just had to finish off drives in the endzone. After dominating time of possession, 18:33 to 11:27, the stage for a dominant second half was set.
However, they just had to do one thing—stop Derrick Henry.
Henry had run for 106 yards, and a touchdown on 14 carries in the first half against the No. 6 run defense in the regular season (95.5 yards/game allowed). His 128 total yards was the most anyone had had against a Bill Belichick defense in the playoffs since LaDanian Tomlinson gained 143 back in the 2006 divisional round.
Stopping him would be the key. But they just couldn’t do it.
The Patriots defense kept the Titans out of the endzone in the second half. But with how well the Titans continued to utilize Henry (who finished with 182 yards on the ground and a 22-yard reception), Tennessee controlled the ball for almost 20 minutes in the second half.
As great as Tom Brady is, even he can’t score if he doesn’t have the ball. The Titans defense made sure he didn’t score when he did have the ball. So, with both teams pitching a shutout in the second half, the half time score, 14-13, ended up being the final.
With the win, the Titans will move on to the divisional round and a bigger challenge— the Baltimore Ravens. For the first time since the 2010 season, the New England Patriots will not be in the AFC Championship.