The New England Patriots won the coin toss against the Tennessee Titans and elected to receiver the opening kickoff with the intent of putting up an early lead and preventing the Titans from running the ball with 6’3, 250-pound bruiser Derrick Henry.
The gamble did not pay off.
New England and Tennessee exchanged punts for the first three drives of the game before the Patriots lost contain of quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota scrambled down the field and found the open receivers before finding rookie wide receiver Corey Davis in the back of the end zone over Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler for a 7-0 lead.
The rest of the half belonged to the Patriots.
The Patriots scored on their next three drives thanks to impressive plays by Dion Lewis, reliable production from the rest of the offense, and some beneficial penalties from the officials, to build up a 21-7 lead.
The Patriots had another chance to score a field goal before the half, but Stephen Gostkowski was unable to connect on a difficult 53-yard attempt.
Dion Lewis has 105 yards from scrimmage through the half, while Tom Brady has completed 21 of 31 (67.7%) for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns for a passer rating of 107.7. Danny Amendola reeled in all 7 targets for 62 yards, Rob Gronkowski has 34 yards, Brandin Cooks has 25 yards, and James White has 26 yard from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns. Chris Hogan caught his last target of the half for a 4-yard touchdown.
The Patriots did an outstanding job of stopping the Titans rushing attack in the first half, with Henry gaining just 29 yards on 10 carries. They must continue to work on setting the edge and ensuring Mariota does not escape the pocket (22 yards on 2 carries), but other than one major breakdown in coverage of tight end Delanie Walker that yielded a 36-yard gain, the defense has been great, with special praise for Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe in the secondary.
The Patriots 21-7 lead is large enough that the Titans need to pass the ball, reducing the impact of Henry’s rushing ability. Despite the slow start, the Patriots are exactly where they needed to be at halftime.
The Titans get the ball after the half.