It was business as usual for Derrick Henry and the Titans.
Tennessee ends New England’s season to advance.
Henry’s 182 yards rushing on 32 punishing carries has the Titans advancing to the divisional round. That’s a typical day for the NFL’s leading rusher. But the surprising wild-card win over New England sparks some questions about quarterback Tom Brady and his future with the Patriots.
Brady wants to come back to play next year but his contract with New England is over and done.
“I love the Patriots. There’s nobody that’s had a better career I would say than being just being with them (Owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick )”, exclaimed Brady, “I don’t know what the future looks like.”
For the Patriots, this could be the end of a dynasty. Six Super Bowl victories in nine appearances and the loss have New England not apart of the divisional round for the first time in a decade.
The Titans have their own quarterback decision once the season ends for them.
After a 36-yard Nick Folk field goal put New England up 3-0, the Titans drove 12 plays in just under seven minutes to strike back. A steady dose of Henry running set up a 12-yard passing touchdown from Ryan Tannehill to Anthony Firkser.
The Pats would answer with a ten-play drive that culminated with a second-quarter Julian Edelman jet sweep to the right from five yards out for the New England touchdown.
Folk would add on another field goal carrying a 13-7 lead late in the first half.
Working with two timeouts and the two-minute warning, Tennessee would drive 75 yards in under two minutes. On the seventh play of the drive, Derrick Henry would bully his way in from one-yard out to score and put the Titans up 14-13 going into the half.
Titan all-pro punter Brett Kern and Patriot punter Jake Bailey took over the second half.
Eight of the eleven punts by both teams would occur in the second half.
It was a chess match of field position with an interception thrown by both teams, but it was the Patriots’ turnover that proved to be the game-changer.
Kern blasted a 58-yard punt to pin New England at their one. With only 15 seconds left and down one, Brady threw a ball into coverage, deflecting off a Titan’s defender and into the waiting arms of Logan Ryan. The former Patriot then took it to the house for a pick-six to put the Titans up for good, 20-13.
For Titan quarterback Ryan Tannehill it was his first playoff appearance. In his previous six seasons with Miami, Tannehill was 4-7 versus New England. He didn’t need to do much in the win over the Patriots. Tannehill went 8/15 for 72 yards with a touchdown and a pick.
After starting 8-0, the Patriots went on a late-season skid. Including the playoff loss, the Pats went 4-5.
If Tom Brady’s career is indeed over, his final pass was an interception returned for a touchdown. It’s doubtful that he will want to end his career on that note. Given that, will he be back in New England next year? If not, it’ll be interesting in which teams will be willing to give the future Hall of Famer another chance. Brady will be 43 next season.
If Brady plays next season, there will be only five quarterbacks that took snaps under center older than him in NFL history. Vinny Testaverde, Warren Moon, and Steve DeBerg were all 44 when they hung up their cleats. John Nesser was 45, and George Blanda was a sprightly 48 when he retired.
The Teacher And The Student
Titan’s coach Mike Vrabel is familiar very familiar with the Patriots.
He spent eight seasons with the Patriots winning three Super Bowls. The All-Pro linebacker learned a lot as a player before unceremoniously being shipped off to Kansas City.
Vrabel is one of many former Bill Belichick assistants to try to take on their former mentor. Belichick is 15-14 versus former assistants, including a 1-3 record this year against Vrabel, Texans coach Bill O’Brien and Miami’s Brian Flores. Vrabel is now 2-0 against his former mentor and joins the Lion’s Matt Patricia and former Broncos coach Josh McDaniels as the only ones who are undefeated against Belichick.
Flores’ win against New England in the season finale cost the Patriots a wild-card round bye.
You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
Saturday night saw a winter storm blow into the northeast United States ironically called, Henry.
Running back, Derrick Henry blew into New England at the same time, and it also happened to be Henry’s 26th birthday. His 182 playoff rushing yards also broke Eddie George’s playoff franchise mark of 162 yards. That was set in January of 2000 against Indianapolis in the divisional round. Henry only had 28 yards in their divisional loss to New England last year.
He also had a 22-yard screen reception to give him a total of 204 yards of total offense. Tennessee, as a team, had 272 yards of offense.
New England will be entering the offseason with Tom Brady’s future up in the air. Whether Brady stays, goes to another team or retires it will definitely change the landscape of the NFL.
Tennessee will head to Baltimore to take on the Ravens and potential MVP Lamar Jackson next Saturday. The Titans will look for another shocker in this renewed rivalry.
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