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MORSE: 15 Observations from Week 12: Titans vs Patriots

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
2 months ago at 2:46 pm ET
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

MORSE: 15 Observations from Week 12: Titans vs PatriotsGeorge Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

In the words of Larry the Cable Guy, “Let’s Git-R-Done” and that’s exactly what the Patriots did on Sunday.  It was not pretty as Tennessee gave the Patriots everything they had, but in the end, the better team won.  Coach Vrabel had his undermanned team ready to play and they made it a game for a half.  In the tale of two halves, the Patriots Defense dominated the second half by making big plays on defense (4 turnovers) and Mac Jones did just enough to manage the win.

  1. This was a game of too many missed opportunities. MVP Nick Folk was 5 of 6 on FGs (one was 53 yards and the miss was 52 yards).  Mac Jones missed a wide-open Hunter Henry for a TD with a 1:02 left in the second quarter.  The Patriots were 1 for 3 in the Red Zone.
  2. I thought the run game was like running in sand. They were going nowhere.  The Patriots only had 23 yards rushing in the 1st  Jeffrey Simmons dominated Ted Karras.  Karras was replaced for a series by Michael Owenu.
  3. Denico Autry, Naquan Jones, and Kyle Peko weren’t allowing the O Lineman to get to the linebackers. This was disgusting since Tennessee was using backup at NT and 3 of the 4 starting Linebackers.  The only LB starting was Harold Landry and he was a ghost.   In the second half, the Patriots gained 72 yards on the ground to push them over the 100 mark.
  4. Mac Jones was good, not great. He threw 23 completions of 31 attempts (71%) for 310 yards, 2 TDs, and no Interceptions.  He did more than managing the game, which I will take every week.  He badly missed a swing pass to Kendrick Bourne, throwing it into the ground.  Some of his throws were high.  The worst throw was the missed TD pass to Hunter Henry.  It looked to me that Jones was leading Henry to the End Zone.   The pass was more of a back-flag route where Henry made his initial steps more to the sideline.  Mac Jones completed 10 of 11 play-action passes (even though the Patriots hadn’t established a running game) for 150 yards and 13.6 yards per attempt.  On the day, Jones had 6 passes of greater than 20 yards.  The Patriots were 1  for 5 in the RedZone before the late TD by Damien Harris.  This was Jones second 300-yard passing game
  5. The biggest point of the day was the turnovers (4-0). The Patriots caused 4 fumbles and recovered 3 of them and had an interception in the end zone.  The first one was with 2 minutes left in the 1st  At the Patriots’ 38, Davon Godchaux force Dontrell Hilliard to cough it up and Kyle Dugger recovered.  Kyle Van Noy nearly had an interception with 48 seconds left in the 1st half at the Tennessee 38 yard line.  Next play Hilliard dashes for a 68 yard TD run, where Devin McCourty missed an open-field tackle.  The big fumble recovery was made possible by a hustle play by JC “Money” Jackson. He chased down D’Onta Foreman after a 4o yard run and punched the ball out of his hands, recovered by the Green Goblin, Jalen Mills on a nice play keeping himself in bounds while recovering the ball.  Momentum completely shifted.  Later JaWhaun Bentley had a strip of Ryan Tannehill, which the officials pre-maturely blew the whistle and play dead.  Bentley made a smart play and followed the ball and knocked it out of the O lineman’s hand, which should have been another fumble.  It was ruled an inadvertent whistle and fumble recovery by the Offense. When the game was out of hand the Patriots came away with another fumble at the 28-second mark.  Kyle Van Noy forced Khari Blasingame to fumble, recovered by Jahlani Tavai.  JC “Money” Jackson’s 7th Interception came as the result of a goal-line stand, which started as 1st and goal at the 5.  The way Tennessee was running there was little hope the Pats would stop them, but stop them they did.  It was 4th and goal at the 2-yard line with 11:59 left in the game. Devin McCourty stayed in the middle of the end zone covering two players and reading Tannehill.  McCourty deflected the pass intended for Cody Hollister.  Jackson has the flexibility to react to make the play.  .  Jackson just has a nose for the football.  You can’t coach that!   This was the 15th play of the drive and the air went out of the balloon after that
  6. The biggest disappointment from the game was how the defense got shredded against the run. They gave up 270 yards on the ground and Tennessee had two 100 yard rushers (Hilliard 131 and Foreman 109).  Hilliard was just called up from the Practice Squad and Foreman was signed to the Practice Squad on November 2nd.  We are not talking about Derrick Henry!  Part of this domination was due to the great play of the offensive line.  They are very experienced despite missing starting RG Nate Davis.  Aaron Brewer did a nice job filling in for Davis.  Tennessee also went to some jumbo packages which confused and tore up the Patriots Defense. The Patriots better get this fixed by the time they play Indianapolis.  The Colts have both a good runningback and a great O Line.  By running the ball, Tennessee dictated the tempo of the game and limited the offensive opportunities the Patriots had.  The running game kept them in the game.
  7. Josh McDaniels play calling befuddles me. It’s been established that you can’t run yet you call the 1st two plays running plays inside the red zone.  At least he allowed Jones to pass on 1st down and let him throw the ball downfield.
  8. The defense stood tall in the second half with turnovers, a goal-line stand, and a clean sheet that kept Tennessee off the scoreboard again. It was 16-13 at the half and the D shut them out in the 2nd half while Offense put up 20 points.  If you just saw the score you would think it was a cakewalk which it wasn’t.
  9. Individual players that stood out to me were Davon Godchaux with 7 tackles and Forced Fumble. Kyle Dugger had another strong game.  Kendrick Bourne had a great game with two TDs on a difficult catch and tight rope run along the sideline.  On that play, Jakobi Meyers made a key play by not blocking from the blindside.  All he did was screen the guy, with his hands in the air.  That simple screen popped Bourne for the TD.
  10. The Patriots held Tannehill to 98 yards passing. That’s unheard of. 11 of 21 for 98 yards a TD and his 13 INT.  His QB rating was 38.6.
  11. This was the first cold-weather game for Mac Jones and I believe the cold affected him.  He did not wear a glove at all.  He threw one pass high to Jakobi Meyers who grabbed it but had it knocked out of his hands.  Another pass sailed as did the pass to Hunter Henry.  That failed swing pass to Kendrick Bourne I think was a result of the cold.   This needs to be monitored.  Hopefully, he will get used to the cold as he gets more practice reps in the cold.  I imagine it will be pretty chilly in Buffalo next Monday.
  12. The Patriots Special Teams put Tennessee in constant bad field position. Of the 10 starting positions the Titans had, none were better than their 29-yard line.  When the Patriots missed the 53 yard FG at the end of the 1st half, Tennessee got the ball at their own 48 but decided to kneel on the play.
  13. I thought this was a good game for Jonnu Smith. He had 3 catches for 49 yards and a jet sweep for another 9 yards.  Consequently, this was a bad game for Hunter Henry was held to 2 catches.
  14. Folk had his 5th kick of 50+ yards on Sunday. He tied a record of Steve Gostkowski.  Ghost happened to be in the stands with his son watching the game.  Rumor has it that Gostkowski is planning on playing next year.  He will be 38 in January.  Nick Folk just turned 37 this month, this has been an incredible year for the 14-year veteran.  Folk is leading the league in scoring and those who have him on their Fantasy team J are rejoicing.  He should win Special Teams Player of the Week again this week.
  15. Mac Jones has a difficult time picking up Safety blitzes. Again this week, Jones doesn’t pick up Kevin Byard who had a blitz from Center Field.  He was tackled for a sack and that took the Patriots out of a possible scoring opportunity.

 

Final Analysis:  This was a gut check game for the Patriots. The Titans are a tough team and they punched the Patriots in the nose.   If you just read that the Titans ran for 270 yards you would think the Titans won the game.  The Defense bailed the team out by shutting out the Titans while the Offense got more physical and ran the ball to score 20 points. The Patriots put up 36 points against the #4 Defense against the run even if you have 4 starters missing.  On the flip side, the Defense held the Titans to 13 points.  It isn’t always pretty and you can’t count on 4 turnovers a game.  What this does show is that the Patriots can beat you in many different ways.

 

Notes:

  • The Patriots only punted once in the game and Tennessee called a fair catch and no return.
  • Christian Barmore was limited to passing downs. Perhaps his knee injury is worse than first thought.
  • Tennessee was not afraid or intimidated by the Patriots. Hopefully, we don’t have to play them again.
  • By running as much as Tennessee did, it took the ball out of Tannehill’s hands. They didn’t put all the pressure on Tannehill to carry the offense.

Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season


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