Hannable: Patriots’ loss to Titans one of more puzzling defeats in long time

Ryan Hannable
November 11, 2018 - 8:39 pm
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A three-play sequence in the fourth quarter summed up the entire Titans shellacking of the Patriots.

Trailing 27-10, the Patriots called a trick play, taking after the “Philly Special,” when Tom Brady flipped the ball to Julian Edelman on a reverse, but then Edelman threw it back to Brady. The Patriots quarterback stumbled as he tried to run down field and came up a yard short of the first down on a third-and-7 play. 

After a false start, the Patriots couldn’t convert on fourth-and-7 giving the ball back to the Titans. 

So, what did Tennessee do on its first play?

Mike Vrabel and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur dialed up the same exact trick play the Patriots had just called, except Darius Jennings connected with Marcus Mariota for a gain of 21 yards.

“I wanted to see if it looked any better than theirs,” Vrabel told reporters after the game.

Zing.

When has a team ever been able to troll the Patriots like that on the field during a game?

It wasn’t just the Titans beat the Patriots 34-10 — they hammered them.

Going into the game, the Patriots were 25-1 in games played between Weeks 5-10 since 2014 and won those games by an average score of 33-19. This is the time of year where the Patriots take steps in the right direction towards playing their best football after Thanksgiving, not take a giant step back after their best performance of the season.

New England was coming off its best win of the year last Sunday night against the Packers, their sixth in a row, holding Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense to just 17 points, but then Sunday was a performance that indicated perhaps the team was already making its bye week plans and looked past the Titans, who entered the game 4-4.

"There's really not too much to say here this afternoon," Bill Belichick said to reporters. "The Titans did a better job than we did in every part of the game, every phase of the game. Not a good day for us. We've got a lot of work to do here, a lot of football left to go. We just didn't do much of anything well today."

Belichick-coached teams rarely fall for trap games, but for whatever reason it happened Sunday.

The 34 points allowed were the most the Titans has scored in a game all year, and it is the same offense that got shutout by the Ravens in Week 6 and scored just nine points against the Jaguars in Week 3.

Sure, the Titans had the No. 1 scoring defense, but that hadn’t stopped Brady before. Going into the game against No. 1 scoring defenses, he was 16-5 with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his career.

The Tennessee defense frustrated Brady from the opening series and it continued to build as the game went on. The Patriots offensive line struggled, partly due to injuries, to give Brady the time he needed and then because of feeling uncomfortable in the pocket the 41-year-old seemed to lock in on a few receivers instead of scanning the field for the open man.

Of Brady’s 41 pass attempts, 32 of them were to Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and James White. That’s not going to get it done against any defense.

"Today, we just played a bad game," Brady said. "You see what happens. Hopefully there’s more urgency as we go forward. Our whole season is ahead of us. We’ll see what we do with it."

While the quarterback is right, in the grand scheme of things the loss won’t derail the season, it was just out of the norm for the Patriots this time of year.

The strange season in Foxboro continues.

Related: Dion Lewis continues to troll Patriots after Titans win

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