Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO -- The New England Patriots' 2019 season was highlighted by several disappointing defeats, so it was fitting that another lackluster loss ended their season Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. 

The Tennessee Titans came into Foxboro and ended the Patriots' nine-game home playoff win streak with a 20-13 victory in their AFC Wild Card matchup. The icing on the cake for Tennessee was a late pick-6 by former Patriot Logan Ryan on what could have been quarterback Tom Brady's last throw at Gillette.

The Titans will head to M&T Bank Stadium to play the No. 1 seed Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round next weekend, while the Patriots enter a potentially franchise-altering offseason full of question marks.

Let's take a look at four instant overreactions from the Patriots' season-ending loss and assess their merit.

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1. Derrick Henry is the NFL's best RB
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

Henry set the tone for the Titans right away, tallying 106 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in the first half. The Titans had a go-ahead touchdown drive in the second quarter during which Henry racked up all 75 yards, including a 1-yard score to finish the series.

Henry finished with 184 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries, in addition to one reception for 22 yards.

The Alabama product won the rushing title during the regular season and the Patriots defense had no answers for him Saturday night. Henry's blend of speed, power and ability to carry a heavy workload makes him the most difficult running back in the league to stop right now.

2. Red zone offense was a major issue
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

The Patriots had a 10-7 lead in the second quarter and a 1st-and-goal at the Titans' 1-yard line. It was a glorious opportunity to go up by two scores and put the pressure on Tennessee. Instead of capitalizing with a touchdown, the Patriots ran the ball three times and ended up losing two yards.

The Patriots were forced to settle for a Nick Folk field goal. 

Should the Patriots have rolled the dice and gone for the touchdown on fourth down? It was still early in the game and Patriots have had little success in short yardage most of the year, but it's fair to wonder if the right call was made in that situation.

Converting in the red zone was an issue for the Patriots throughout the 2019 season. Rob Gronkowski was a huge threat in this area of the field his entire career, and New England was never able to find even a semi-comparable target for Brady inside the 20-yard line. Rookie wide receiver N'Keal Harry has the size and talent to someday be a legitimate red-zone threat, but it's too much to ask of him this early in his career.

3. Patriots wasted a great season by the defense
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

The Patriots defense was one of the league's best units in 2019 and ranked No. 1 in many statistical categories. New England's defense gave up just 14 offensive points to the Titans, which is a pretty impressive accomplishment given how hot Tennessee's offense had been during its 7-3 finish to the regular season.

 

The Patriots scored just 20.3 points over their last nine games, including this loss to the Titans. The Pats had four second-half drives Saturday, including one trailing 14-13 with 4:44 left in the fourth quarter. They punted on each of these drives. The Patriots have been able to put together so many winning drives late in playoff games throughout Tom Brady's career, but they lacked the playmaking skill required to pull off more magic in 2019.

It's not a stretch to suggest the Patriots could have made another Super Bowl run with a slightly more competent offense.

4. The Patriots dynasty is over
Verdict
: Overreaction

The Patriots are about to enter a busy offseason, one that could see several important players depart the team. The biggest question mark involves Brady, who is eligible to become a free agent in March.

It's hard to feel encouraging about the Patriots' future after a tough loss on Wild Card Weekend, but if Brady returns for the 2020 season this team should still be among the top contenders in the AFC. New England has a boatload of 2020 draft picks, some talented young offensive players (N'Keal Harry, Sony Michel, etc.) and a defense that should be very good for at least another year.

Coaching always will be a huge advantage for the Patriots as long as Bill Belichick is in charge. There is a solid foundation in place for success if the Patriots keep Brady and make some upgrades to the offense around him, but there's a lot of work to do.

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