Patriots

Marcus Mariota, Corey Davis help Titans take a bite out of Patriots defense

Marcus Mariota, Corey Davis help Titans take a bite out of Patriots defense

The pass rush discipline of last Sunday night seemed to evaporate somewhat against the Titans. Part of that has to do with the superior speed, physical health and age of Marcus Mariota relative to Aaron Rodgers, but the room Mariota had to step up as the pass rush cruised by was a factor in his success finding some relatively easy throws.

Mariota finished 16 for 24 for 248 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t shy away at all from Stephon Gilmore, hitting Corey Davis seven times for 125 yards and a touchdown from 23 yards out in the first half. And even on that one, Gilmore drew a flag for grabbing Davis’ arm.

Gilmore also drew a pair of flags covering Davis, who was targeted 10 times.

The Titans made a ton of yards through the middle of the Patriots defense. Dion Lewis carried 20 times for 57 yards. Seven of his runs went for a yard or less, so there were occasions he was bottled up. But he also got through to the second level with regularity as well.

WHAT WE SAID BEFORE THE GAME

The Patriots effort on Derrick Henry, the Titans’ big back was disappointing. He ended up with 58 yards on 11 carries including two walk-in touchdowns, one from 1-yard away, the other when he took a direct snap and scored almost untouched from 10 yards out.

The Titans scored on four of their first six possessions and made it into New England territory on all but one of their first-half drives.  They went 4-for-6 scoring touchdowns on their first half drives.

Nobody in the secondary played especially well. Patrick Chung had a missed tackle on tight end Jonnu Smith and Smith also got loose from Chung for a red zone touchdown. Devin McCourty was in coverage on two third-down conversion throws in the second quarter, one of them a 20-yard completion on third-and-14.

In the front-seven, Donta Hightower had two tackles for loss and Lawrence Guy played the best up front on a day when that group had limited effectiveness.

The story of the day, though, was Mariota and his repeated attacking of Gilmore. In last year’s Divisional Playoff at Gillette, the Patriots sacked Mariota eight times. This time around, they got to him twice and the pressure that causes him to throw high and wild at times never came with enough regularity to make him full-on skittish.

MORE HARD TRUTHS

Gilmore’s been so solid for so long – dating back to last season – that a talented young wideout tuning him up one week after he shut down another talented young wideout (Davante Adams) is no cause for panic. It will, however, invite more throws his way going forward.

With the bye, the Patriots will have a week to self-scout and tighten the bolts once again on a defense that had been working like clockwork.

The competent performances aren’t wiped out by what happened in Nashville. But it does give some pause since they’ll see better quarterbacks than Mariota and better offenses than the one that beat them soundly on Sunday.

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Sony Michel and Demaryius Thomas to start camp on PUP list

Sony Michel and Demaryius Thomas to start camp on PUP list

As the Patriots gear up for the start of training camp and another Super Bowl championship defense, a few key players will start camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP). 

Sony Michel and Demaryius Thomas are the big names on there, per Field Yates, while Mike Reiss reported Nate Ebner, Cole Croston, Deatrich Wise and Ken Webster will begin camp on the PUP list. 

All this means is the players on the PUP list at this time have not been cleared for on-field drills yet. They can come off any time since it is just training camp. If any of these players end training camp on the PUP list, they can be placed there for the regular season, where they won't be able to practice or play for the first six weeks of the year. 

On the bright side, it appears left tackle Isaiah Wynn will not begin camp on the PUP list, according to Mike Reiss. The Patriots selected Wynn in the first round of the 2018 draft, but the University of Georgia product missed the entire season with an Achilles injury.

Wynn projects to be the team's starting left tackle this season after the loss of Trent Brown in free agency, so it's a good sign he'll be able to participate right away at camp. 

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Patriots HOFers Brown, Harrison back on the field in Foxboro this week when training camp begins

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AP Images

Patriots HOFers Brown, Harrison back on the field in Foxboro this week when training camp begins

As the Patriots return to training camp this week, they'll be plenty of familiar faces getting back to work and some new additions. 

Among those who know they're way around the fields in Foxboro and will be out there again are a Patriots Hall of Famer and soon-to-be Pats HOFer, Troy Brown and Rodney Harrison. 

Brown, the former versatile receiver inducted into the team's Hall in 2012, will be on the field working with receivers again, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN. While not officially on the coaching staff, Brown worked with first-round pick N'Keal Harry, free-agent signee Maurice Harris and veteran Julian Edelman, along with other receivers at minicamp in June. He's lent a hand to Bill Belichick and special teams coach Joe Judge, who is also doubling as receivers coach after several staff departures in the offseason. Brown's former teammate Jerod Mayo is on the staff and will work with linebackers.

Harrison, who will be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame at a Gillette Stadium ceremony on July 29 along with late offensive lineman Leon Gray, is scheduled to arrive on Thursday, when the team begins practices. While not coaching, Harrison, the former hard-hitting safety who now works for NBC as an NFL analyst, will be a visitor on the field and is never shy about sharing his insights and opinions, such as going into the Pats Hall means more than being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall in Canton.

"To get named a Hall of Famer to the greatest organization in sport ever, it just means so much to me," Harrison told Reiss. "I'm still stunned. I can't believe I'm in the Patriots Hall of Fame. All I can do is shake my head at this point."

As for the current edition of the Patriots, Harrison expects them to be in a familiar position:  "I know Kansas City is really good...but I still think the Pats are the best team in the AFC."

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