The New England Patriots found themselves playing on Wild-Card Weekend for the first time in a decade after falling to the Dolphins in a stunning loss in Week 17. They welcomed an old friend into Gillette Stadium on Saturday in head coach Mike Vrabel, whose Tennessee Titans shocked the world by upsetting the defending Super Bowl champions with a final score of 20-13.
And with that, the future of both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick come into question.
Both clubs were able to put up points on their first offensive drives of the night, but it was the Titans who reached the end zone first before both defenses appeared to clamp down as the first half rolled along. The Patriots mounted a long drive that tore chunks off of the clock as they approached the one-yard-line, threatening to tighten their grip on the lead. The Titans defense had other ideas, however, holding the Patriots out of the end zone and forcing them into a field goal instead.
In the end, it was a back-and-forth game that turned into a back alley brawl and went down to the wire, but there could only be one victor.
The Titans toppled the mighty Patriots and there's a lot to go over. Will Brinson is joined by the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends to break down all the playoff action from Saturday; listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness.
Why the Titans won
The simple answer here is grit and determination. The Patriots owned time of possession, total yardage, third down conversion and several other key categories for much of -- if not the entirety of -- the game, but they simply could not pull away from the scrappy Titans. New England had no answer whatsoever for running back Derrick Henry, the league leader in rushing racking up a monstrous 182 yards rushing and 204 total yards from scrimmage, to go along with a rushing touchdown in a game where points were at a premium. Henry owned the Patriots with no mortgage payment required, and might've singlehandedly ended that Patriots dynasty.
Why the Patriots lost
The defense did a number on quarterback Ryan Tannehill all night long, holding him to only 72 passing yards and one passing TD through four quarters, and also grabbed a key interception early in the fourth quarter with the Titans up 14-13. The Patriots couldn't capitalize though, after being forced to punt on the subsequent drive, and also failed to come up with a key forced fumble against Tannehill in the first half that also could've swung momentum in their favor. Those failures added to the dominance of Henry and a late-game pick-six by Tom Brady to end the Patriots season, and inject a mountain of questions regarding what will be the most unpredictable offseason in New England in a very long time.
With the Patriots threatening to score after a long drive that could've ended in them distancing themselves from the Titans, Vrabel's defense mounted up and stopped them short on the one-yard line. The result was another field goal for the Patriots, followed by a 75-yard drive entirely driven by Henry, capped by a Titans touchdown to take the lead and never look back.
Play of the Game
The longstanding rule of thumb is to never leave time for Brady to engineer a potential comeback, but Logan Ryan cares not for history -- only the present. After dropping a pick-six earlier in the game that could've truly put pressure on the Patriots, he made up for it in his mulligan attempt, intercepting Brady in the waning moments of the game (and his career in New England?) to nail the Patriots coffin closed.
The dynasty is dead
"[It's a] new era in football." - Jake Brown of NY Post
The Patriots will pack it in for 2019, but the Titans will ready themselves to face the potent Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round.