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Pats Secondary Must Step Up

Ian Logue
Ian Logue on Twitter
Jan 11, 2004 at 5:00am ET

FOXBORO, MA - When the Patriots look back at Saturday night's 17-14 win over the Titans, they will likely realize that Tennessee was able to make their secondary look pretty shaky.

Titans quarterback Steve McNair went after rookies Asante Samuel and Eugene Wilson, along with throwing at veteran Tyrone Poole by using motion plays and attacking that side of the field. Titans wide receiver Derrick Mason did a good amount of the damage, finishing the game with 7 catches for 90-yards and a touchdown. Wilson was repeatedly seen trying to corral the veteran wide receiver.

Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher made sure that the Titans offense continued to attack them all night, each time with one of them struggling to try and make a play.

It left Ty Law from getting his name called for much of the evening. Apparently McNair and Fisher hadn't forgotten how the last game had ended when Law intercepted McNair and returned it 65-yards for a touchdown to seal the 38-30 win back in October. While Law started Saturday's game, fans may have forgotten he was even on the field after the Titans obviously felt they would be better served to attack the other side of the secondary.

Law finished the night without even a tackle or a pass defensed, and it proved to be a brilliant game plan for Tennessee as they continually experienced success on the other side of the field.

The strategy almost worked.

Law's veteran counterpart didn't exactly have an easy evening either. While the Titans avoided the Pro Bowler's side of the field they also went after Poole instead, and almost had a chance to stay in the game after Poole fell down on Tennessee's final play of the game and fortunately Samuel was there to cause McNair's incompletion to Drew Bennett that allowed the Patriots to run out the clock. A catch by Bennett would have given the Titans a chance to kick a field-goal and force overtime, but he couldn't hold on, and New England was able to run out the clock and advance to the AFC Championship game.

It was arguably Poole's worst game of the season, which was surprising considering how well he had played up to that point.

Aside from Law the only other bright spot from the secondary came from veteran safety Rodney Harrison, who finished with an interception and a pass defensed and was also seen making several big hits throughout the game.

With an explosive offense heading into Foxboro next week, it's likely that Colts head coach Tony Dungy will be taking a good long look at the game plan that the Titans coaching staff put together against the Patriots. For a defense that had been so stingy for much of the year, they allowed Tennessee convert 54% of their third downs and gave up an average of 5.4 yards-per-play.

After starting out 3-0 last season fans will likely remember how the Kansas City Chiefs were the first to expose a weakness in New England's defense after the Patriots 41-38 win in Foxboro last season, and the team finished 6-7 the rest of the way. It would be tough to imagine that Saturday's win over the Titans could possibly trigger a similar scenario to end the Patriots magnificent run.

As one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL, one would believe that Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennell will recognize what Tennessee was able to accomplish and correct it. Sunday's game against Indianapolis will likely be another tough game, and considering how tough the battle has been between Law and wide receiver Marvin Harrison over the past few meetings, it's going to be up to the rest of the group to come up with a better performance this week.

ANOTHER COLD ONE

The football Gods appear to be on New England's side heading into next week's AFC Championship game which will again be hosted by the Patriots in Foxboro at Gillette Stadium.

Temperature at Game Time for Sunday's 17-14 victory over the Titans was officially listed as 4°, and it appears it won't be much warmer when the Indianapolis Colts come to Foxboro next weekend.

According to Weather.com the forecast for Foxboro next Sunday includes more cold weather (17°F) including snow with highs in the upper teens and lows in the low single digits.

Kickoff is currently scheduled for 3:00pm next Sunday.


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