FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — The Patriots are headed to the AFC Championship game for the seventh straight year after running roughshod over the Tennessee Titans in Foxboro Saturday night, ringing up a final score of 35-14.
New England now awaits the winner of Sunday’s contest between the Steelers and Jaguars.
The Titans drew first blood as Marcus Mariota found Corey Davis in the back of the end zone to cap off a five-minute, 95-yard drive to put the Titans up 7-0.
But that was the high-water mark for Mariota, who finished the night 22 of 37 for 254 yards and two touchdowns – half of which came late in the fourth quarter with the game already decided.
Tom Brady, on the other hand, set an NFL record for career postseason games with three touchdown passes – ten – passing Joe Montana. Brady finished the night 35 of 53 for 337 yards. Brady also improved to 26-9 in playoff games, records in appearances and wins, and also extended his record with his 13th 300-yard playoff game:
Danny Amendola led the New England receiving corps with 11 catches for 112 yards.
The Patriots answered that early Titans touchdown about three minutes later after a long pass to Dion Lewis put them at the Titans 19-yard line. Three plays later, White scored on a five-yard pass to tie things up.
White wasn’t done there, powering in a rushing touchdown at with 9:20 to go in the half. The call was reviewed to see if White’s knee was down before the ball broke the plane, but with no conclusive evidence to overturn it, the call stood: touchdown.
The next drive for the Pats appeared to fizzle out inside their own 20-yard line: it looked like a three-and-out until the Titans handed New England a fresh set of downs with a neutral zone infraction penalty while the teams were in punt formation. The Titans would do it twice more on the same drive, allowing the Patriots to march 91 yards downfield in 16 plays, ending with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan.
The Titans benefited from a Patriots penalty to extend their last-minute drive but could not get into field goal range. Tennessee called a head-scratching run play on 4th and 1 to try to keep the drive alive, but ended up losing yards and handing the Patriots a chance to try a field goal before time expired. Stephen Gostkowski missed the 53-yard kick to keep things at 21-7.
New England was content to eat up the clock in the third quarter, eventually putting together a scoring drive of 56 yards in four and a half minutes that ended with Brandon Bolden finding a hole in the Titans’ goal-line defense and trotting into the end zone from two yards out.
The next Patriots scoring drive bridged the third and fourth quarters and featured some impressive tosses from Brady. Rob Gronkowski reeled in a four-yard touchdown pass to close out a drive that took another seven minutes off the clock.
Mariota went down swinging late in the fourth quarter, eventually finding Davis again from 11 yards out to bring the score to 35-14 as the Patriots defense eased off on the pressure that had stifled him for most of the game.
The Pats clinched a first round bye and home field advantage through the playoffs, giving the team and extra week of rest before Saturday night’s matchup. The Titans, on the other hand, just edged past the Chiefs in Kansas City last week, beating them 22-21.
Fans braved 20-degree temperatures to cram the Gillette Stadium grounds to tailgate, as Eyewitness News reporter Eric Halperin discovered: