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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