Dec. 20, 2015 seems not too long ago. That changes when the date crosses paths with the plays and the names of those who made them.
Like Joey Iosefa, the New England Patriots’ leading rusher when the Tennessee Titans last visited Gillette Stadium, who bulldozed his 245-pound fullback frame for 51 yards on 12 carries.
Like Zach Mettenberger, the LSU product who replaced an injured Marcus Mariota under center for Tennessee and went 20-of-28 for 242 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions courtesy of linebacker Jamie Collins and cornerback Malcolm Butler.
Like defensive linemen Akiem Hicks, Jabaal Sheard and Chandler Jones, who, along with Collins, all sacked the Titans’ quarterbacks that afternoon.
Like tackle-eligible tight end Michael Williams and wideouts Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin, who were among those to catch passes from Tom Brady in what hit the books as a 33-16 Patriots victory.
Oh, and Martin had a 75-yard kick return for New England, too.
Dec. 20, 2015 doesn’t feel so much like yesterday now.
Tennessee was 3-10 at the time they last trekked to Foxborough. Their head coach, Mike Mularkey, was under the interim title back then after replacing Ken Whisenhunt following a 1-6 start. The likes of corner Logan Ryan and guard Josh Kline weren’t in the visiting locker room. Neither was an old friend in QB Matt Cassel. And Jon Robinson, the Patriots’ director of college scouting from 2009 to 2013, wasn’t looking on as the Titans’ general manager, either.
None of that’ll matter much when the Patriots and Titans reconvene for an 8:15 p.m. ET divisional-round kickoff this Saturday. It’ll have been 755 days. But there’s a little fun looking back into the minutiae that was Week 15 of the 2015 NFL season.
Here’s a little more for good measure.
James White, stepping into a larger role in wake of Dion Lewis’ placement on injured reserve, caught the third touchdown pass of his career when the Patriots last met the Titans. Rob Gronkowski had one as well. And core special-teamer Brandon Bolden, called upon in the absence of LeGarrette Blount, also rushed 10 times before New England signed veteran back Steven Jackson in the hours that followed.
Meanwhile, Antonio Andrews, David Cobb, Jalston Fowler and eventual Patriots practice-squadder Bishop Sankey made up the Titans’ backfield touches. A 6-foot-5 wide receiver named Dorial Green-Beckham made up 113 of the Titans’ aerial yards while tight end Delanie Walker netted two scores. And on Tennessee’s defensive front, a rookie fourth-round pick who’d later have a stint with New England, Angelo Blackson, recorded a half-sack.
Again, those footnotes from a couple seasons ago don’t hold any weight now. If anything, they just add some perspective.
Football years age differently.
The Patriots will face a 10-7 Titans team coming off an 18-point wild-card comeback over the Kansas City Chiefs, not one seven games under .500 coming off a 22-point loss to the New York Jets. And while Tennessee enters the week as two-TD underdogs, it’s not 2015 anymore.
The plays and the names of those who made them say as much.
Even if the end result winds up being a similar one.