Best and worst: Patriots 33, Titans 16
BEST Sunday tradition
"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle allll-" GRONK SPIKE! Say it with me now: Just. Another. Sunday. In. New England. This is winter as we know it around these parts. This is the holiday season as we know it. Maybe you were stuck in line at the checkout counter and missed it. Maybe you were sitting in traffic at the mall and heard it on the radio. Or maybe you, ya know, planned your holiday shopping around this Patriots game and had a front-row seat on the couch for yet another Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski touchdown. Brady hit Gronk just in front of the goal line on a quick out after he got separation from linebacker Justin Staples. Don't feel too bad if you missed -- there's always next week. This touchdown was extra special for Rob Gronkowski, who lost a close friend last week. Gronk pointed to the sky after the touchdown -- and after spiking the football he went back for it.
BEST Jones sack
Chandler Jones came into Sunday's game with 10 1/2 sacks, but it was his next one on Marcus Mariota that really changed the game for the Patriots. On third-and-9 from their own 26-yard line, Mariota dropped back but was attacked by Jones. He coughed up the football and it rolled an extra 10 yards before Akiem Hicks got his hands on it and eventually fell on it in the end zone. Jones was credited for a 19-yard strip sack, and Hicks gets the touchdown. That made it 14-0 Patriots and it became clear at this point that the game was over. (Btw, that was the first minute of the second quarter.)
WORST special teams
GAhhhhhhh. Oh, you thought we could get though a game without a flub on the special teams unit? The Titans were getting absolutely nothing going on offense in this one, and ended up putting from their own 19-yard line. Danny Amendola caught the punt at the Patriots 20 and tried to make something happen. Unfortunately, he coughed up the football and the Titans fell on it. It was essentially a Hail Mary pass for the Titans, on a day where they have no business completing anything close.
WORST scoring drive
Seeing as the Titans got the ball on the Patriots 26-yard line, they could have literally gone backwards and still put points up on the board. So that's what they did. (Man, these guys stink.) Three plays, minus-5 yards, thanks to an eight-yard sack by Jamie Collins on third down. Miraculously the field goal went through the uprights and the Titans got on the board. Not the most impressive scoring drive . . .
BEST special teams
I take back everything I said about the Patriots special teams unit. What a group! After allowing that Titans field goal, Keshawn Martin returned the kickoff 75 yards to the Titans 30-yard line, and just like that the Patriots were back to being good and the Titans were back to being bad. Actually, they were never good. So they're just still bad.
BEST receiving back in the NFL
James White! Give that man all the receptions. White took a short pass from Brady about four yards behind the line of scrimmage (30-yard line) and ran all the way in for a touchdown. Like most catches out of the backfield, White got some big blocks. These were from David Andrews, Josh Kline, Shaq Mason, and Brandon LaFell.
Coty Sensabaugh, meet Joey Iosefa . . . aaaand you're dead! Iosefa, a fullback, was signed to the Patriots 53-man roster on Saturday and there's a good chance he didn't show up much (or at all) in the Titans gameplan. In typical fullback fashion, Iosefa trucked Sensabaugh into next Sunday (most likely another loss for the Titans) on his way to a 15-yard gain. A few plays later, the Patriots kicked a 43-yard field goal to go up 24-3. Big run by big Joey. Love the truck stick.
WORST sight to see
It's hard to pinpoint exactly when Danny Amendola re-injured his knee on Sunday, but we do know this about him: he's been playing hurt for a few weeks after injuring the knee against the Bills in Week 11. You gotta give him credit for playing through the pain especially when the Pats were without other receiving option in Gronk and Julian Edelman. Amendola is an important part of the offense and special teams, and if he needs to miss a week or two in order to be full-go for the playoffs, then so be it.
WORST way to start the half for the Patriots
I understand the possibility that the Patriots may have lost a bit of interest in this game. Up 24-3 at the half with little to no firepower from the Titans, they can probably play D- football and still win the game. That said, you don't want to see them go that route. So a three-and-out for the Patriots to start the second half followed by a Titans touchdown drive wasn't the most fun. I mean, the Titans really had no business scoring a touchdown in this game, but Zach Mettenberger (who came on for an injured Marcus Mariota) took them 59 yards on seven plays, so you gotta give credit where it's due. Mettenberger hit Dorial Green-Beckham for a big 30-yard pass on the drive, and five plays later found Delanie Walker for the seven-yard touchdown that looked way too easy. Flat, flat, flat from the Pats.
WORST sight to see, part II
It's a Patriots game, so naturally key players would get hurt during the game. After Danny Amendola left the game with a knee injury, Dont'a Hightower limped off the field and to the bench with a left knee injury - the same knee he had injured a few weeks ago. This was Hightower's first game back from the injury, and if he made it worse by being out there with the Patriots leading the Titans 27-10, then that's a shame. He had to be cleared by team doctors to play, but maybe it was just too soon.
WORST sequence of events
OK, so how many times can I say the Titans have no business scoring, but then they score? Three? OK, because we're at three scoring plays now. The last one took all of one play - a 57-yard touchdown to Walker, with tons of impressive YAC down the sidelines beating Patriots defenders who dropped like flies on the attempt to catch Walker. One of those defenders, Patrick Chung, was hurt on the play when Jon Bostic attempted to make a tackle but instead blasted his helmet into Chung's thigh/hip area. Chung was down for a bit but walked off on his own in some pain. Shortly after, he'd leave for the locker room. The Patriots are already down their other safety, Devin McCourty, and this would be another tough loss. Oh, and the Titans kicker Ryan Succup (pronounced suck-up) missed the extra point . . . so instead of being down 10, they're down 11. Big miss, Succup.
Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal earlier in this game. I assume he chose to do it? It's the only logical explanation for him missing. Anyways, after allowing that last Titans touchdown, Brady took the Pats down the field but couldn't cash in for a touchdown. Gostkowski came out there and despite a bad snap kicked one off the inside of the left upright that snuck through for three points. You didn't think the GOAT would miss two in the same game, did you? That put the Patriots up two touchdowns, which was more than enough as they improve to 12-2 on the season.