The New England Patriots improved to 12-2 on the season with a 33-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans. The Patriots now have secured a first round bye in the playoffs with the win and Denver’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
Tom Brady and the offense put up 30 points for the first time in seven weeks, thanks to the help of the defense which scored a touchdown on a strip sack by Chandler Jones. The fumble was picked up and ran, or stumbled into the end zone by Akiem Hicks. Brady finished 23/35 for 267 yards and two touchdowns. The two scores pushed Brady’s passing touchdowns to 35 tying Peyton Manning for the record for 35 plus td’s in a season with four. With Blount out for the season the Patriots used a running back by committee approach Joey Iosefa, Brandon Bolden and James White. Iosefa lead the Patriots with 14 carries and 51 yards. He showed a physical style when he ran over Casey Sensabaugh. It was the highlight of the day for the young physical runner, who also played some full back. Bolden again was just average in the running game with 36 yards on 10 carries. The best back on the field was again White who caught seven balls for 71 yards and a beautiful 30 yard catch and run touchdown on a screen pass. He also had a long gain of close to 70 yards negated by an offensive pass interference by Keshawn Martin. A noticeably angry Brady could be seen talking with Walt Coleman, that Martin was within one yard of the line of scrimmage when he made contact with the Titans player (completely legal). Regardless the Patriots made the plays they needed to make on offense to win.
The defense continues to be the story as the front seven again took over a game. The Pats finished with five sacks and now have 45 on the season. After a quiet week versus the Texans, Jones had two sacks and was dominate at times. The defense knocked Marcus Mariota out of the game with a knee injury after a Jamie Collins sack. The Patriots also recorded two interceptions on the day, one by Collins and one in the endzone by Malcolm Butler. The Patriots defense is playing at a level as good if not better than any in the past ten years. With the rotation of Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, and Jabaal Sheard working the outside pass rush, the trio has made quite the impact. Couple the outside pass rush with the interior of first round pick Malcom Brown, Sealver Siligia, Alan Branch and Hicks and the Patriots front four can stay fresh and gets better as the game goes on.
The victory was not without its issues. Another turnover on special teams, this time by the normally sure handed Danny Amendola, who fumbled a punt return. The turnover was the fourth special teams turnover in the last four games. The Patriots rash of injuries continued as Amendola, Donta Hightower, and Patrick Chung all left the game and did not return. Is it time to wonder what exactly strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash and his assistant Moses Cabrera are doing. The amount of soft tissue injuries this year are a scary thought. I say this in jest of coarse, as I believe the rash of injuries to the Patriots and others around the team are the lack of padded practices allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.
Next up for the Patriots is a trip to the Meadowlands to play the New York Jets. The Jets kept it close in Foxborough earlier this season. The 9-5 Jets are fighting for their playoff lives. The Patriots need a victory in one of their final two games to wrap up home field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs.