Titans at Patriots Review: Pats Good Enough In Win

The Patriots clinched a first round bye on Sunday with their twelfth win of the season over the Tennessee Titans.

It wasn’t as clean as Patriots fans would have liked, but the Pats took care of business at a point in the season when getting the win is all that matters.

On Offense

Pass Protection: This has been an up and down year for the Patriots’ offensive line. Granted injuries have played a role, but this group has had a rough year compared to what we are used to. On Sunday, they allowed a total of 20 quarterback pressures led by the Titans top offseason acquisition Brian Orakpo (6 pressures). It was a rough day for the Patriots’ two starting tackles, Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon. Vollmer and Cannon allowed a combined 12 pressures including a sack. The lack of protection up front showed in Tom Brady’s performance later in the game. Due to shaky pass protection, Brady threw for just 121 yards and 0 TDs in the 2nd half (56.3 comp pct). It’s the second week in a row that Brady has failed to throw a touchdown pass after halftime. The O-Line has survived in the first half of games as of late, but as the game goes on, and fatigue sets in, you can see the decline starting to happen. Jurrell Casey also had a nice game for the Titans up front, as he was dominant at times rushing against the young interior line of Mason, Jackson, and Andrews.

James White: The saving grace of this offense has been the emergence of James White. Over the last three weeks, White leads all running backs in receptions, rec yards, and is tied for second with two receiving touchdowns. White doesn’t have the same speed or quickness as a Dion Lewis, but has been great after the catch nonetheless. On his 30-yard TD on Sunday, White showed great patience to let his blockers (Josh Kline and David Andrews) get in front and form a crease. When White catches the ball, two Titans defenders appeared to be unblocked, and ready to make the tackle, but White stalls his progress and it sets up the big play:


Missed Opportunities: Typical of Patriots fans wins for this team are never really enough, especially when facing the now 3-11 Titans. Having said that, this could have been a lot worse for Tennessee if the Pats were able to finish their positive drives with touchdowns instead of field goals. The Patriots had five drives stall within 30 yards of the end zone, and had to settle for 12 points on four Gostkowski field goals (one miss). The Patriots could have had close to 50 points in this one if they had finished better on offense.  It is unlike the Pats to miss out on scoring opportunities this often in one game, so I wouldn’t worry about this too much.

3rd Down: The Patriots struggled a little bit once again on third down vs the Titans, a trend that directly correlates with the absence of Julian Edelman. The Pats were 7-16 (44%) on third down on Sunday, and have been converting just 35.5% of the time on 3rd down since Week 11 (first full game without Edelman). If you dig deeper, it’s even more daunting how much they miss Edelman on third down especially. With Edelman on the field this season, the Patriots converted on 50.0% of third downs. Without Edelman, that number drops all the way to 37.1%. Not being able to convert on third down is a big reason why this offense isn’t producing like it did earlier in the season.

On Defense

Pass Rush: Let’s not beat around the bush any longer, the Patriots have one of the best front sevens in all of football at the moment. The pass rush has knocked out the opposing team’s starting quarterback in back-to-back weeks. They had five sacks, four tackles for a loss, and a forced fumble that led to a TD. Furthermore, where you really see the pass rush paying dividends is how it has aided the secondary. For starters, opposing quarterbacks typically don’t have much time to throw the ball after the snap. This is huge for defensive backs as they know they don’t need to cover their man for very long. Second, even when they don’t sack the quarterback, you can see the effect that the pass rush has. On Sunday, one of the big misses on the day for the Titans was a pass that Zach Mettenberger sailed over the head of a wide open Delanie Walker. Walker had Patrick Chung beat, but the pressure from Jamie Collins up the middle effected the throw. Without Collins’ pressure, that is a big completion to Walker and the Titans are driving.

collins copy    walker copy

Delanie Walker: Speaking of Delanie Walker, going into the game we knew that Walker was the Titans #1 weapon on offense (and really the only weapon). Walker caught just two passes (on 5 targets) but both of his receptions went for touchdowns. On Walker’s first touchdown, it looked like Chung and Duron Harmon weren’t on the same page on the coverage. Without actually knowing the defensive call, it appeared that Chung thought it was zone while Harmon thought it was man. Walker ran a crossing route and Chung didn’t go with him, expecting Harmon to pick him up. On the second touchdown, a combination of poor tackling and bad angles resulted in the big play. Walker somehow bounced off the tackle of Chung and Jonathan Bostic, but should have been brought down after the fact by either Butler or Harmon. Harmon and Butler slowed down on the play expecting Chung and Bostic to bring him down, and once they noticed Walker was going to break the tackle they were out of position. Credit Titans receiver Harry Douglas for a nice block on Harmon that sprung Walker.

Logan Ryan/DGB: Titans rookie WR Dorial Green-Beckham has come on strong in the last few weeks, and had a nice performance on Sunday (9 targets, 6 rec, 113 yds). This comes as a big surprise a week after Ryan shut down one of the top receivers in football in DeAndre Hopkins. The Titans did their homework on Ryan. Instead of trying to beat the Pats CB up the sideline, they sent Green-Beckham on a number of short and deep crosses. Ryan’s strength is using the sideline to his advantage and being physical on the outside. By making Ryan run across the formation more often, they got Green-Beckham open with speed as well as size. Credit Green-Beckham also for using his 6-5, 237 pound frame to go up and get the ball. Ryan struggled with the size and speed combo that Green-Beckham brought to the table, with a lot of the safety help focusing on Delanie Walker in the middle of the field.