As we’ve said in the past few weeks: Ladies and gentleman, you are witness to one hell of a stretch by the New England Patriots.
Entering Sunday’s game, it was expected that the Patriots would take care of business against a depleted Tennessee Titans team. Despite struggling in the trenches throughout the first three quarters, they did exactly that behind a strong defensive performance in the fourth quarter that allowed the Titans to gain just 39 total yards over the final 15-minutes.
Now, sitting at 8-4 and winners of six straight, the Patriots have finally proved Matthew Judon’s point from a number of weeks ago, when he said they were, “better than their record.”
Just two weeks away from their BYE, New England has an extra day to prepare for the Buffalo Bills, who they will visit next Monday night. Before they do that, they can revel in their most recent victory, and you can too by reading a drive-by-drive recounting of Sunday’s game below!
Final Score: Patriots (8-4) 36 : 13 Titans (8-4)
November 28, 1:00p.m. ET | Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA | Broadcast information
Patriots Inactives: QB Jarrett Stidham, RB JJ Taylor, TE Devin Asiasi, OLB Ronnie Perkins, OL Yasir Durant
Titans Inactives: RB Jeremy McNichols, CB Greg Mabin, LB David Long, LB Rashaan Evans, OL Nate Davis, DT Teair Tart, EDGE Adeniyi Olasunkanmi
The Patriots will enter Sunday’s matchup with the same exact list of inactives that they had last Thursday against Atlanta. All five players listed are healthy scratches.
Tennessee’s list is full of former starters and key contributors to their team. They will however have their top two tight ends healthy, as Geoff Swaim and Anthony Firkser are active. Tennessee has zero healthy scratches.
The Patriots won the coin toss, as the Titans called tails and the coin landed on heads. They differed their choice to the second half. Tennessee’s depleted offense will start first.
Dontrell Hilliard returned the opening kick to the Tennessee 28-yard line, but the Titans were called for a hold, backing them up to their own 11-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Lawrence Guy stuffed a Hilliard run before a 2nd down pass went to Geoff Swaim for eight yards. On 3rd-and-3, Matthew Judon made his presence felt by sacking Ryan Tannehill and forcing a punt.
The Titans were penalized on their first punt attempt, forcing themselves to kick a second time where Gunner Olszewski was able to set New England up inside Tennessee territory. The penalty cost the Titans 32 yards.
A short Damien Harris run, followed by a pass interference penalty drawn by Jakobi Meyers, pushed New England inside the Titans 30-yard line. The Patriots kept it on the ground, this time on a jet sweep to Jonnu Smith that gained 10 yards, a first down, and pushed New England into the red area. A run stuff by Denico Autry and pass breakup by Kevin Byard forced the Patriots into a 3rd-and-10, where Josh McDaniels dialed up the trusty running back screen to Brandon Bolden who picked up the first down. The Patriots continued to keep it on the ground on early downs, falling into another third down after two short Damien Harris runs. Tennessee sent the house on an obvious passing situation, when Jones threw up a great pass that Kendrick Bourne ripped down in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown. [Patriots 7 : 0 Titans]
Back on offense, Tennessee was gifted a free five yards when Matthew Judon lined up offsides on first down. That allowed the Titans to run the ball, where they picked up four yards on first down, leading to a first down completion from Tannehill to MyCole Pruitt for 10 yards. Back on the ground D’Onta Foreman picked up seven yards on two carries, to push Tennessee past mid field and bring up another 3rd-and-3. Tennessee moved to the air once again, picking up just two yards on a short completion and forcing themselves to go for it on 4th-and-1 and pick up the first down on the ground with Tannehill. Tennessee decided to stay in the air, picking up a pair of first downs with a Tannehill scramble, then a pair of completions to former Patriot, Cody Hollister. Riding their play action game down the field, the Titans found themselves inside the 10-yard line with an opportunity to tie the game, but not before the end of the quarter.
The Patriots stuffed Tennessee’s first two rush attempts, forcing the Titans into a 3rd-and-goal. Once again, Tennessee returned to the air on third down, where Nick Westbrook-Ikhine barely squeaked into the end zone for a touchdown. Unfortunately for Mike Vrabel’s team, the refs called him short, forcing Vrabel to challenge the ruling before they were awarded their points. Randy Bullock missed the PAT after the review. [Patriots 7 : 6 Titans]
New England’s return on offense started with a bang, with Mac Jones and Jakobi Meyers connecting for 42 yards on two straight passes to push inside Tennessee territory rather quickly. Jones wasn’t done though, connecting with former Titan Jonnu Smith for 29 yards on a pair of passes that set New England up inside the 10-yard line on their second straight possession. Rhamondre Stevenson’s first two carries picked up five more yards leading to a 3rd-and-goal from the New England 4-yard line. That is where Jones tried to hit his favorite target Hunter Henry, but the pass fell incomplete. Nick Folk came one and added to the lead with a 22-yard field goal. [Patriots 10 : 6 Titans]
Tennessee’s third drive on offense started from their own 28-yard line following a strong Chester Rogers return. New England was the victim of a questionable roughing the passer penalty, which pushed the Titans to mid field on just their second play of the drive. Dontrell Hilliard took a trio of runs for 22 yards and another first down, before the Titans offense was forced into another 3rd-and-short scenario. For the fourth straight time, Tannehill went to the air, but missed a wide open Rogers, forcing a field goal attempt. Randy Bullock, who doinked an earlier PAT, did it again, this time on a 44-yard field goal. No points for the Titans following a promising drive.
Michael Onwenu replaced Ted Karras on New England’s following drive, presumably to help them get the running game going against a stout Tennessee front. The Patriots quickly got him acclimated, running a screen to his side that went for 12 yards and a first down. A holding call on the first play on the next set of downs pushed New England back 10 yards, but that wouldn’t matter as Mac Jones dropped a dime to Jakobi Meyers, who reeled in a 38 yard catch while falling backwards.
After picking up just one yard on first and second down from the Titans’ 26-yard line, Mac Jones got another opportunity too let it rip, but Nelson Agholor ran short of the sticks and picked up just six yards on third down. Nick Folk came on and connected from 37-yards. [Patriots 13 : 6 Titans]
Tennessee took over at their own 25-yard line following a Jake Bailey touchback, and got started quickly with a 13 yard run by Dontrell Hilliard, followed by a Nick Westbrook-Ikhine catch that went for 24 yards, leading to the two-minute warning. From the New England 28-yard line; Ryan Tannehill had a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage, before Kyle Dugger recovered a Hilliard fumble, forced by Davon Godchaux.
New England took over at their 32-yard line. With less than two minutes, the Patriots went to the air. Brandon Bolden took a check down for 19-yards, before Kendrick Bourne drew a Jackrabbit Jenkins facemask penalty that pushed them inside Tennessee’s 30-yard line. An incompletion and short Bolden gain forced the Patriots into a 3rd-and-7 where Jones overthrew a wide open Hunter Henry in the end zone. After stalling out, Nick Folk nailed one from 44-yards out. [Patriots 16 : 6 Titans]
The Titans offense returned to the field with 0:58 left on the clock, and all three timeouts. Their first play from scrimmage almost resulted in a fumble, but Anthony Firkser was called downs before he lost control of the ball, resulting in a seven yard gain. Their second play was almost picked off by Kyle Van Noy, but he dropped a pass that landed in his breadbasket. Their third play? A 68-yard touchdown run by Dontrell Hilliard. [Patriots 16 : 13 Titans]
The Patriots looked to add to their lead on the following possession despite having just 0:22 left on the clock. A strong Gunner Olszewski return set them up at their own 35-yard line. That led to a Brandon Bolden screen pass that was taken for 21-yards, and a Nelson Agholor reception that gained 10. Kendrick Bourne picked up seven more yards to set Nick Folk up for a 53-yard attempt, his fourth of the half. The ball sailed right. Tennessee took over and kneeled out the clock.
Gunner Olszewski started the half off with a bang for New England, as his return (and Tennessee facemark penalty) helped set New England’s offense up inside Titans’ territory. Damien Harris got another first down carry that went for a single yard. Mac Jones hit Jonnu Smith for 20 yards on second down to push back inside the Tennessee extended red area, before New England went back to Harris who picked up another first down on a pair of carries behind Jakob Johnson. Back to the air, Mac Jones missed Kendrick Bourne on a swing route, before almost throwing an interception in the direction of Smith. On 3rd-and-10, Jones scrambled but could only pick up 7 yards. Nick Folk came on for his fifth attempt, all coming on consecutive possessions, and hit from 28 yards. [Patriots 19 : 13 Titans]
Cody Davis made sure the Titans wouldn’t start with good field possession, making a tackle on the return at the Titan’s 18-yard line. Two plays later, New England had the ball at their own 37-yard line, following a J.C. Jackson forced fumble and Jalen Mills fumble recovery on a long D’Onta Foreman run.
A quick pass to Hunter Henry, and short run by Mac Jones gave the Patriots a quick first down on their ensuing possession, before another short run on first down and incompletion to Jakobi Meyers led to a 3rd-and-8. Kevin Byard came on a safety blitz and sacked Jones to force a punt, New England’s first of the day.
The Titans took over at their own 11-yard line, but couldn’t get much of anything going, gaining just four yards on the series and punting it back to New England. The best drive of the day for the Patriots’ defense.
Starting another possession around midfield, New England’s offense started strong with a first down pass to Jakobi Meyers. A negative rush attempt by Damien Harris and short pass to Nelson Agholor set them up with a 3rd-and-6 that Kendrick Bourne caught for seemingly just enough for a first down. Bourne looked tone going out of bounds before cutting inside and tip-toeing along the sideline for a 41-yard touchdown. [Patriots 26 : 13 Titans]
The Titans returned to the ground to begin their next drive, picking up 44-yards on back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back run plays that pushed them over 200 rushing yards on the day and guided them well into New England territory. On their first pass attempt of the drive, Tannehill hit rookie Dez Fitzpatrick for 14 yards. A neutral zone infraction by Kyle Van Noy gifted the Titans five more yards before the end of the quarter.
D’Onta Forman gained seven yards on the first two plays of the fourth quarter, and set Tennessee up with a 1st-and-goal from the New England five-yard line. Another pair of short Forman runs and incompletion into the end zone resulted in a 4th-and-goal for Tennessee Fromm the Patriots’ two-yard line. On a rollout to the right, Tannehill threw a pass across his body that was tipped up into the air and intercepted by... who else? J.C. Jackson. The Patriots take over at the 25-yard line.
Content with bleeding clock and playing the short game, the Patriots offense played it safe. They started the drive with a run by Rhamondre Stevenson, short pass to Kendrick Bourne, short pass to Hunter Henry, another run by Stevenson, another run by Stevenson, and another run by Stevenson netted 50 yards and led the Patriots on a steady drive into Titans territory. From the Tennessee 30-yard line, the Patriots kept it on the ground with Stevenson but lost a yard, they then went to the air allowing Nayquan Jones to sack Mac Jones. On 3rd-and-21, Jones hit Jakobi Meyers for seven yards to give Nick Folk a chance from 52-yards. He nailed it, extending the Patriots’ lead to 16. [Patriots 29 : 13 Titans]
Down 16 with just over 6-minutes left, the Titans were forced to abandon the run game and attack New England through the air. That was not a recipe for success, as they netted -4 yards and turned it over on downs deep inside their own territory. New England’s pass rush forced three incompletions and a forced fumble on the drive.
The Patriots offense took over at Tennessee’s 21-yard line and was content with keeping it on the ground. Two Damien Harris runs later, they were in the end zone. [Patriots 36 : 13 Titans]
Down 23 points with just four minutes left, Kevin Hogan took over at quarterback for Tennessee. At that point, he handed the ball off six straight times playing in a game full of reserves. On the final handoff, New England forced another fumble and took over to kneel out the remaining clock.
[FINAL - Patriots 36 : 13 Titans]