The New England Patriots played a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday and as a result saw their six-game winning streak come to a crashing halt. The team was blown out 34-10 by former Patriots standout Mike Vrabel’s team after performing poorly in all three phases of the game. Let’s take a look at who stood out during the contest — for better or for worse.
Loser: CB Stephon Gilmore
The Patriots opted to use their number one cornerback on the Titans’ most productive wide receiver but it did not work: Stephon Gilmore was regularly beaten by Corey Davis, who finished the game with seven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. Gilmore, who had been playing at a Pro Bowl level over the last few weeks, was in coverage on most of those catches and at times was simply outmuscled by Davis. Maybe his health played a role in this, but at the end of the day it was clearly the worst game of Gilmore’s season — no ifs and buts.
Loser: SS Patrick Chung
Like Gilmore, Patrick Chung had a solid last few weeks but struggled against the Titans. Not only was the veteran and team captain inconsistent as a tackler on the day, he also gave up the game’s first touchdown when he was unable to keep up with tight end Jonnu Smith in the end zone. Smith was Chung’s primary coverage matchup all game long and finished with three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. Not necessarily outstanding numbers, but still enough to count as a loss for the defensive back.
Winner: WR Julian Edelman
On a day that saw the Patriots’ high-powered offense struggle to hit its groove, Julian Edelman once again stood out as a go-to-guy and trusted weapon for quarterback Tom Brady. Overall, he was targeted 12 times and finished with a team-high nine receptions for 104 yards. Edelman also showed his worth as a passer for the second week in a row, completing a six-yarder to Brady. Unfortunately, he left the game because of an ankle injury in the fourth quarter. Up until that point, however, he was New England’s best offensive player.
Loser: RB James White
The Patriots’ most valuable skill position player through the first nine weeks of the season had an uncharacteristically quiet day against a stout Tennessee defense: James White finished with just 31 yards on five receptions and -5 yards on his lone carry of the day. White usually plays a bigger role in the offense as his numbers from yesterday are clearly below his season averages when it comes to touches (13.4) and yardage gained (85.1). With him struggling to get going, so did the entire offense.
Loser: QB Tom Brady
For the third game in a row, Tom Brady looked human. His comparatively mediocre statistics — he completed 21 of 41 pass attempts for 254 yards without any touchdowns or interceptions — tell only part of the story: the 41-year old was unable to get into a rhythm because of the pressure he faced and his decision making of seemingly force-feeding his three most trusted weapons in Josh Gordon, Julian Edelman and James White. Above all that, Brady’s accuracy was also off at times. He was far from the only problem New England had, but as opposed to multiple times in the past he did little to help mask the others.
Loser: The kick coverage
New England’s special teams unit had its fair share of miscues over the first nine weeks of the season — and yesterday’s game was more of the same. The game’s very first play set the tone, as the coverage group allowed Titans returnman Darius Jennings to run the opening kickoff back 58 yards. Overall, Tennessee was able to average 39.0 yards on two kickoff returns and 14.0 yards on three punt return. Not exactly winning numbers.
Winner: RB Sony Michel
Yes, he finished with just 31 yards on 11 carries. However, Sony Michel returning off his knee injury was still encouraging to see on a day when almost everything went wrong for the Patriots. As for their first-round running back himself, he oftentimes simply did not have the room to operate — but when he did, he made the most out of it and displayed similar burst as he did prior to hurting his knee in week seven. With the bye week around the corner, Michel appears to be on track to become an impact-maker once more.
Loser: The offensive line
The Patriots’ offensive line was a strength during the team’s six-game winning streak but had a bad performance against the Titans and their talented defense. The unit struggled in pass protection (Tom Brady was sacked thrice and hit six times) and was unable to get a consistent push in the running game. This, in turn, made it hard for the team to string plays together to get into a rhythm. Hopefully for New England, a return to full health — starters Trent Brown, Marcus Cannon and Shaq Mason are all nursing injuries — will help turn fortunes around again.
Loser: WR Chris Hogan
Not only did Chris Hogan lose contain on the game’s opening kickoff, which then was brought back 58 yards, he also had another quiet day as a pass catcher. Despite seeing regular time on the field, the veteran was targeted just once — a pass that was near uncatchable — and again did not rise up on a day the other weapons were pretty much kept in check. Unless Hogan bounces back over the bye week, it would not be a surprise to see the team hand the keys to the number three wide receiver role over to Phillip Dorsett.
Winner: FB James Develin
One of the unsung heroes of the Patriots offense, James Develin had another successful day as a lead blocker in the running game — most big runs yesterday came with him on the field — and as a presence on special teams (he forced a fumble that was recovered by Tennessee). Furthermore, the veteran scored New England’s lone touchdown of the day: Develin was handed the football from one yard out and he fought his way into the end zone.