The Tennessee Titans were in Foxborough Saturday night for a wild-card matchup with the defending champion New England Patriots.
Thanks to a stunning two-minute-drill touchdown-scoring drive from Derrick Henry and the Titans, New England controlled the pace for much of the first half but went into halftime down 14-13.
The second half belonged to the Titans. They ground the Patriots into the dust with a relentless rushing attack and rock-solid defense, leaving Foxborough with a 20-13 victory to advance to the divisional round.
These are the biggest winners and losers from the Titans’ wild-card victory over the Patriots Saturday night.
Winner: Derrick Henry was phenomenal
A player who has been surging throughout the second half of the regular season, Derrick Henry continued his strong play Saturday night against the Patriots. He was the engine that drove Tennessee’s offense, toting the rock 34 times.
One drive in particular stands out. Right before halftime, Henry gained all 75 yards and scored a touchdown on seven glorious consecutive plays.
Henry also hauled in one pass for 22 yards and was a problem for New England’s defense all night long. All told, he racked up 204 yards from scrimmage.
Loser: Pats’ lack of weapons was big
It’s a problem we’ve seen all year long. It’s the reason Antonio Brown landed in New England to begin with, and why Tom Brady was upset when the Pats cut the receiver. The Patriots do not have many viable weapons on offense, and a 42-year-old Brady doesn’t have enough mojo left in his system to prop up the offense.
Julian Edelman, who’s playing with a messed up shoulder, caught just three passes for 30 yards. First-round rookie N’Keal Harry hauled in just two passes for 21 yards. Mohamed Sanu caught just one pass for 11 yards. That’s not going to get the job done, and New England’s lack of offensive firepower doomed the Patriots in a big game.
Winner: Titans defense turned it around
Early on, it looked like Josh McDaniels had the perfect game plan dialed up. The Patriots scored 13 points in the early goings and things were looking dire for Tennessee. Then, the Titans made halftime adjustments and proceeded to dominate the action.
New England would have five possessions on offense in the second half. The Patriots could not manage a single drive over six plays, punted four times and then Tom Brady was picked for six points to seal the game. That’s how championships are forged, ladies and gentlemen.
Loser: Tom Brady came up … small
It’s stunning. Tom Brady has come up big in so many big moments that you just expect him to keep doing it, despite evidence that his skill set is diminishing. On Saturday night, he and the Patriots were shut out in the second half, during which they were down by just one point until the bitter end.
Then, needing a miracle with under half a minute left to play, deep in his own territory, Brady did this:
All told, Brady passed for just 209 yards on 37 attempts with no touchdowns and one brutal interception in what may be his final game with the Patriots.
Winner: The student becomes the master
It must be a sweet feeling for Titans head coach Mike Vrabel to have led his team to victory in the playoffs against his old mentor, Bill Belichick. Vrabel and his staff put together an awesome game plan for this wild-card game against the Patriots, and they pulled off a feat not many can lay claim to by taking the champs down in their own house.
The Titans have a long road in front of them after Saturday’s win. But at this point, given the way things started before making the change at quarterback, Vrabel and Co. have already had a tremendously successful season and have a lot to be proud about.