Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, for the eighth straight year, found themselves in playoff action on Divisional weekend. The Patriots matched up against the Tennessee Titans, fresh off a comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round. This week, however the Titans couldn’t keep the magic going. The Patriots Divisional round match up was touted by many to be a blowout. Following a slow first quarter, the Patriots turned on the jets, marching their way to a 35-0 run.
With a 35-14 win, the Patriots clinched their seventh straight birth in the AFC Championship game. The victory also moves Brady to 12-2 in Divisional round playoff match ups throughout his career. Here are some key turning points in the Patriots decisive win.
New England Patriots Blow Out Tennessee Titans in Divisional Round
Penalties Haunt Titans in First Half
The Titans found themselves falling on their own sword throughout the first half when it came to penalties. On their first drive of the second quarter, the Titans appeared to gain a first down on a completion to Eric Decker. However, Decker was called on a questionable penalty for offensive pass interference. The Titans were then forced to punt on a three-and-out, giving the Patriots the ball at midfield.
Later in the second quarter, another questionable call by the referees resulted in a huge break for the Patriots. On fourth down deep inside their territory, the Patriots were forced to punt the ball away. Initially, the referees called a false start penalty on Geneo Grissom, pushing the team back five yards. After a brief conference between the referees, the call was reversed to a neutral zone infraction against the Titans. The change in call resulted in a Patriots first down. Tom Brady took advantage of the call, driving the ball down the field to put the Patriots up 21-7.
Patriots Turn on Jets in Second Quarter
The Patriots offense sputtered to start the match up with the Titans, stalling just past midfield on both of their first two drives. The Titans entered the second quarter with a surprising 7-0 lead. That being said, Patriots fans know you can only tame the beast that is Tom Brady for so long. The Patriots offense caught fire, finishing the first half on a 21-0 run.
Dion Lewis and Brady really found their stride in the second quarter. Lewis finished the second quarter with eight total touches, resulting in 83 yards for the Patriots running back. Brady made the most of his chances as well, finishing the quarter with 16 completions on 22 attempts, throwing for 154 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots went into the locker room at half with all of the momentum on their side.
Titans Collapse out of Halftime Break
Heading into halftime down 21-7, the Titans needed a change in game plan on both sides of the ball. Their offense had stalled following a 95-yard drive in the first quarter. The defense allowed three straight touchdown drives to the Patriots offense to close out the half. Despite the game still being within reach, the Titans came out with a dismal effort in the second half.
In the third quarter, the Titans moved the wrong direction down the field, having all three drives result in a loss of yards. The Patriots defensive line stepped up, recording four sacks in three drives during the third quarter of play. With the offense still clicking, the Patriots entered the fourth quarter up 28-7. The Titans recorded -15 yards on offense, compared to the 118 yards gained by the Patriots.
The Patriots Divisional round victory clinched their spot in the AFC Championship game, which takes place next Sunday, January 21st at 1:05 E.T. The Patriots will play the winner of the Divisional round match up between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday, with the winner advancing to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Minnesota.