As New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pointed out earlier this week, the Tennessee Titans are a difficult team to move the football against due to their unpredictability. While the unit ranked only 13th in the league during the regular season while surrendering 20.7 points per game, its versatility and ability to throw multiple looks and blitz packages at you makes Saturday’s game a challenge.
To add to that, the Patriots also have struggled to consistently string positive plays together on offense — especially when it comes to passing the football. Despite having the greatest quarterback of all time under center, New England’s aerial attack has been limited to short and intermediate throws as the whole operation have failed to get on the same page on a drive-to-drive basis. And yet, passing the football might be the key come Saturday’s wild card game.
“With the injuries they have at corner right now — although it looks like Adoree Jackson might play this week — I would attack them down the field,” Music City Miracles editor-in-chief Jimmy Morris told Pats Pulpit earlier this week. “The Titans pass rush hasn’t been consistent all year. As you might imagine, the combination of a bad pass rush and backup corners leads to a lot of opportunities for big plays down the field.”
“That’s why it is so important for Jeffery Simmons and Jurrell Casey to step up in this game and create some pressure,” Jimmy continued when speaking about the Patriots’ recipe to success against Tennessee’s defense. “The Titans are going to need big efforts from Jurrell Casey and rookie Jeffery Simmons. The Titans are going to need push up the middle from those guys to pressure Tom Brady from the middle.”
The Patriots have struggled along the offensive line earlier during the year, but lately the unit has hit its groove which could give the team an advantage against Tennessee’s talented interior pass rushers. If guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason as well as center Ted Karras find a way to slow down Casey and Simmons — the two have combined to register 42 quarterback disruptions so far this season — Brady could have time to attack the cornerback group.
This is easier said than done. Just last week, the Patriots went up against one of the worst pass defenses in football but they were still unable to get into much rhythm. Too inconsistent was the separation created by the pass catchers, too inaccurate Brady at times, too bad the penalties drawn. Given how small the margin of error will be on Saturday and how the Tennessee defense has had its issues against the pass, New England’s aerial game better get its act together finally.
Of course, it will not be easy. Not only have the Patriots not shown the ability to play consistently good football on offense this year, their opponent also still has considerable talent and the ability to throw off New England’s attack due to the aforementioned unpredictability and the creativity of their scheme — something Jimmy also mentioned when discussing the Titans defense this week.
“Since the Titans haven’t been able to produce a consistent pass rush with their linemen and EDGE guys, they have had to get creative when it comes to pressuring quarterbacks. Logan Ryan, who Patriots fans are plenty familiar with, has been really good at blitzing from the secondary. You will probably see quite a bit of that,” he said before mentioning another member of Tennessee’s defensive backfield worth keeping an eye out this week.
“The Titans also have Kevin Byard who is one of the best safeties in the league that most people really don’t know anything about. He has 17 interceptions over the last three seasons,” said Jimmy about the team’s leader in picks this year with five. Byard, Ryan and company may not have posted the same impressive numbers as New England’s defense this season but they will certainly present a challenge for the Patriots.