On Saturday, the New England Patriots will host the Tennessee Titans in the two teams' divisional playoff game. The Patriots are entering the contest as heavy favorites and it is not hard to see why: not only are they playing at home, New England is also coming off a 13-3 regular season that earned the reigning world champions both the AFC East title and the conference's number one overall seed.
The Titans' road to the playoffs, for comparison, was not an as smoothly looking one. Let's recap how head coach Mike Mularkey's team made its way to the divisional round.
Week 1: vs Oakland Raiders
Result: L 16-26
Tennessee started its regular season at home, hosting the Raiders. The contest was a close one that slowly saw the visitors pull away in the second half: The Titans struggled with an inconsistent aerial attack and failed to cap their drives with touchdowns. Overall, the team only reached the end zone once all day long – in the first quarter – and had to rely on field goals to stay in the game. Ultimately, it was not enough.
Week 2: at Jacksonville Jaguars
Result: W 37-16
The Titans' first divisional matchup of the season saw the team record its first win. The game in Jacksonville started as a defensively dominated affair that saw Tennessee's unit record three takeaways. After entering halftime up 6-3, the visitors put forth a dominating effort in all three phases and scored on their first five second half possessions to secure a 37-16 victory over the eventual AFC South champions.
Week 3: vs Seattle Seahawks
Result: W 33-27
Just like their game against Jacksonville a week earlier, the Titans' matchup with the Seahawks began as a defensive battle and saw the team pull away after halftime. Tennessee scored three field goals to take a 9-7 lead into the locker rooms before three touchdowns in the third period set the course for the Titans' second victory of the season. While the game was an even contest on the stat sheet, the home team's ability to register big play scores made the difference.
Week 4: at Houston Texans
Result: L 57-14
One week after an impressive game against Seattle, the Titans suffered their worst loss of the season. Tennessee turned the football over a total of five times and was never able to threaten the home team Texans, who jumped to a quick 21-0 lead. While two touchdown runs by quarterback Marcus Mariota, who had to leave the game because of a hamstring injury later, cut the deficit to 10 at one point in the second quarter, the Titans fell apart afterwards: Houston scored 33 unanswered points to close out the game.
Week 5: at Miami Dolphins
Result: L 10-16
Tennessee did not exactly bounce back from their blowout loss in Houston against the Dolphins, but at least the team kept the game close: After Dolphins took a 10-0 lead, the Titans fought back to tie the game in the third quarter. However, they were ultimately unable to answer Miami's final touchdown of the day. The close and at times sloppy game saw each team turn the football over twice while failing to gain 200 yards of offense.
Week 6: vs Indianapolis Colts
Result: W 36-22
The Titans broke their two-game losing streak on Monday night football against their division rivals from Indianapolis. The two teams played a back-and-forth contest that saw the Colts take a 13-9 lead at halftime. After giving up an interception return to open the third quarter, Tennessee was able to regain momentum and go up 22-19. The visitors tied the game midway through the final period but two long scoring plays by the Titans offense secured the team its first victory since week three.
Week 7: at Cleveland Browns
Result: W 12-9 (OT)
After their shootout against the Colts, the Titans played a low-scoring game in Cleveland that was decided via overtime. Neither the Titans nor the Browns were able to find the end zone as both teams were unable to score against some outstanding defensive opposition – with Tennessee's Kevin Byard as the standout performer registering three interceptions. In the end, Ryan Succop's fourth field goal of the day moved the Titans to 4-3.
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: vs Baltimore Ravens
Result: W 23-20
The Titans faced another playoff hopeful, the Ravens, coming out of their bye week. The two teams' meeting was a hard fought game that saw Tennessee come out on top due to a solid defensive performance – Kevin Byard registered another two interceptions – that kept Baltimore in check even when the offense had an uneven performance at times.
Week 10: vs Cincinnati Bengals
Result: W 24-20
Following their win over the Ravens, the Titans hosted another AFC North team the next week: the Bengals. And as has been the case one week earlier, the game was a close one that saw the two squads go back and forth – despite Tennessee holding the ball for more than 40 minutes. Cincinnati took a 20-17 lead late in the fourth quarter but the Titans were able to fight back and answer with the game-winning touchdown with only 36 seconds left on the clock.
Week 11: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Result: L 17-40
Tennessee's third straight AFC North matchup took the team to Pittsburgh on a Thursday night – and it saw the team's four-game winning streak come to an end. The game started with the Steelers taking a 10-0 lead but by the third quarter, the Titans came within two points. However, the final period saw Tennessee unable to keep up with the AFC's eventual number two seed: Pittsburgh scored 17 fourth quarter points while Marcus Mariota added two interceptions to bring his total to four on the day.
Week 12: at Indianapolis Colts
Result: W 20-16
Coming off their loss in Pittsburgh, the Titans were able to bounce back in their second meeting with the Colts – despite Tennessee's offense again having an uneven day. The visitors started well into the contest and went up 6-0 in the first quarter. However, Indianapolis, led by ex-Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett, scored 16 unanswered points to take a 16-6 lead midway through the third period. At that point, the Titans came to life again and closed out the game by scoring its final two touchdowns.
Week 13: vs Houston Texans
Result: W 24-13
Nine weeks removed from the 57-14 shellacking at the hands of the Texans, Tennessee got its revenge and defeated its division rival at home – even though it did not look like it early on. Houston jumped to a 10-0 lead but the Titans were able to tie the game before halftime. In the second half, the team added two touchdowns while the defense was able to keep its opponent out of the end zone.
Week 14: at Arizona Cardinals
Result: L 7-12
Entering their week 14 game against the 5-7 Cardinals, the Titans were on a clear course towards a playoff spot. However, the team fell into a slump in the late portion of the season – and it all started in Arizona. The defensive battle saw the visitors take a 7-0 halftime lead but the Cardinals would go on to dominate quarters three and four. While Tennessee's defense did not give up a touchdown all game long, the home team was able to win with four field goals as the Titans' offense struggled to put points on the board.
Week 15: at San Francisco 49ers
Result: L 23-25
While the Titans went 2-0 against fellow ex-Patriots backup Jacoby Brissett, the team was unable to pull out a win against Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers. The game was a back-and-forth affair that saw San Francisco go up by 10 before the Titans rallied back to take a 23-22 lead with only one minute left in the game. However, the final of overall nine field goals getting kicked that day decided the game in he home team's favor as time expired.
Week 16: vs Los Angeles Rams
Result: L 23-27
Tennessee's third NFC West game in a row brought the team its third straight loss. Like the game in San Francisco, the Titans' matchup with the Rams was a tight one that saw the teams tied 13-13 at halftime. In the second half, the home team went up 23-20 but again could not hold on to the lead: Los Angeles scored a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter and the Titans were unable to answer.
Week 17: vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Result: W 15-10
With a spot in the playoffs on the line and a win needed, Tennessee hosted the AFC South champions. And as has been the case in week two, the Titans and Jaguars found themselves in a defensive battle – one that saw the home team take a 12-3 lead after two quarters. The home team continued its defensive domination in the second half en route to a 15-10 victory and a playoff birth for the first time since the 2008 season.
AFC Wild Card Playoffs: at Kansas City Chiefs
Result: W 22-21
The contest between playoff seeds number four and five started to look like a Chiefs blowout win early on. The home team jumped to a 14-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and appeared to be in full control. However, the Titans started to fight back in the second half and erased the 21-3 half time deficit in the third and fourth quarter. Behind a dominant ground game, Tennessee was ultimately able to take a 22-21 lead and advance to the divisional round.
Overall, the Titans have had an up-and-down year. While the team has been able to show a lot of resiliency and mental toughness throughout the regular season, it also had its struggles – especially on offense.
Meet the Patriots' next opponent: Tennessee Titans
Meet the Patriots' upcoming opponent: The Tennessee Titans.Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Wednesday, January 10, 2018