Mass. (AP) — When the eerie Foxborough fog lifted, it became clear that
New England’s reign atop the NFL was ending.
Derrick Henry ensured that with the kind of dominating playoff performance usually reserved for Tom Brady and the Patriots.
rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown while Tennessee’s defense stymied
Brady and perhaps ended his championship-filled New England career with a
20-13 wild-card victory Saturday night.
Brady vows to be back on an NFL field next season, but his contract with the Patriots is done.
love the Patriots,” the 42-year Brady said, adding about leaving the
game after 20 seasons: “I would say it’s pretty unlikely, hopefully
unlikely. I love playing football. I don’t know what it looks like
Doing the most moving forward Saturday night was
Henry, who had a total of 184 yards rushing in two playoff games two
years ago. He nearly got that against the league’s top-ranked defense in
boosting the Titans (10-7) into the divisional round at No. 1 seed
“It’s a great win against a great team in a hostile
environment,” Henry said on his 26th birthday. “Credit to my team. I’m
just happy we were able to advance.
“We were just locked in. That
was our mindset, just coming in here doing what we needed to do in all
three phases, stay locked in no matter what happens in the game, and I
feel like we did that.”
As that dense fog that
shrouded Gillette Stadium for the first half dissipated, the Patriots,
who made the last three Super Bowls and won two, stalled repeatedly with
the ball. They no longer were the bullies on the block — Henry was.
for this defeat, the Patriots’ fourth as a wild card, Brady noted:
“They kind of stopped us in the first half and the second half and we
couldn’t get the job done.”
There had been no scoring in the
second half when All-Pro Brett Kern’s 58-yard punt that took up 10 of
the final 25 seconds rolled down at the New England 1. Brady then was
picked by former Patriot Logan Ryan for a 9-yard touchdown t o finish off the Patriots (12-5), who at one point were 8-0.
game’s first three possessions wound up as three long scoring drives. A
29-yard screen pass to James White set up Nick Folk’s 36-yard field
goal, but Tennessee answered with a 75-yard march built around Henry. He
had no role on the touchdown, Tannehill’s pass to a Harvard man, tight
end Anthony Firkser that made it 7-3.
Firkser is the first player from Harvard to score a playoff TD.
England counterpunched with its own 75-yard drive, taking temporary
control of the game by victimizing Tennessee’s defense on the outside.
The Titans looked slow trying to protect the flanks as Sony Michel broke
off a 25-yard run and White had a 14-yarder.
Julian Edelman finished it with the first rushing touchdown of his 11 pro seasons, a 5-yard dash to the unprotected left side of the Tennessee D.
England appeared primed for another touchdown after Mohamed Sanu’s
14-yard punt return set up the Patriots at the Titans 47, and they
steadily drove to first-and-goal at the 1.
All they got was Folk’s
21-yard field goal as three runs failed. It was the 13th time the
Patriots had first-and-goal at the 1 in a playoff game in the Brady era
and the first time they failed to get a TD on the drive.
led the NFL with a career-best 117.5 passer rating and by averaging 9.6
yards per pass attempt. But he didn’t do a whole lot Saturday night in
his first postseason game: 8 of 15 for 72 yards. His awful decision to
put the ball up for grabs on the first play of the fourth quarter
resulted in Duron Harmon’s interception.
But New England’s spotty attack flopped and never revived. That has not been unusual during the second half of the schedule.
passing yards were the fewest for a starter since the Ravens’ Joe
Flacco had 34 in a wild-card win against the Patriots 10 years ago.
now has five victories over Brady, second only to Peyton Manning’s six
for the most by an opposing QB since 2001, including playoffs.
celebrated his birthday by getting the most rushing yards against a
Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team in the playoffs. He set an early
tone by rushing for 49 of the Titans’ 75 yards on their opening
touchdown drive. On the Titans’ second 75-yard TD march, all Henry did
was gain every yard: 22 on a screen pass and 53 rushing, including a 1-yard dive
into the end zone for a 14-13 halftime lead. Those were Tennessee’s
first points in the final two minutes of the opening half since Week 8.
you can run it when the other team knows you’re gonna run it, that says
a lot about your running game,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
led the NFL in rushing this season with 1,540 yards in 15 games, the
fourth-most rushing yards in franchise history. He also ran for 16 TDs,
second most in team history.
star linebacker for New England who won three Super Bowl rings, is a
rare member of the Belichick coaching tree to defeat the Patriots’
long-time coach head to head in the playoffs. Another of those,
Houston’s Bill O’Brien, also did it this season — and the Texans
advanced to the divisional round earlier Saturday by beating Buffalo in
“I told ’em that to win the game, you’re going to have
to be mentally and physically exhausted,” Vrabel said. “You’re going to
get rubbed defensively. There’s gonna be gadgets. They going to force
you to think. …
“We didn’t hand them anything. They feast on bad football.
“I don’t think our guys spend a lot of time looking at those banners.”
England’s loss in the season finale at home to Miami, which cost the
Patriots a wild-card round bye, was engineered by another former
Belichick assistant, Brian Flores.
NEW ENGLAND SLUMP
winning their first eight games, the Patriots struggled mightily in the
second half of the schedule. They lost four games, and with the defeat
by the Titans, they fell three times at home.
Titans: Linebacker Jayon Brown hurt his shoulder in the first half.
Patriots: Safety Patrick Chung left in the first quarter with an ankle issue.
Titans: Head to Baltimore in the divisional round.
Head home early, failing to become the second team to make four
straight Super Bowls. And wondering where Brady is headed.
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