FOXBOROUGH — Instant Analysis from the Patriots’ 36-13 win over the Titans:
▪ The Patriots couldn’t run the ball. They couldn’t stop the run, either. And they kept ending drives with field goals. An ominous feeling loomed over Gillette Stadium as the Patriots let the pesky, shorthanded Titans hang around.
But Kendrick Bourne and J.C. Jackson came flying to the rescue. Bourne turned a short crossing pass into a game-changing touchdown, tip-toeing 41 yards down the sideline late in the third quarter. It was his second touchdown of the day, fifth of the season, and gave the Patriots a crucial two-score cushion.
Then Jackson, Mr. Interception, came up with two big turnovers to seal the win. The first turnover turned an awful play into a great one — D’Onta Foreman had run through a huge hole to rumble 31 yards, but Jackson clubbed the ball out from behind for a game-changing fumble. And in the fourth quarter, Jackson came down with his seventh interception of the season on fourth and goal from the 2-yard line.
Bourne, who signed a modest three-year, $15 million deal in the offseason, has been the Patriots’ best offseason signing on offense. He leads Patriots receivers in yards (623) and touchdowns (five), and has been impressive in running after the catch. And Jackson continues to add zeros to his impending free agent contract by creating impactful turnovers.
The Patriots didn’t play their best Sunday, but Bourne and Jackson played like superheroes and saved the day.
▪ There’s no shame in winning ugly against this Titans team, even with their bevy of injuries on both sides of the ball. The Titans may not have had their top skill players, but they had a terrific game plan, great coaching and dominant play in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Mike Vrabel had his team ready to play, but it just didn’t have enough firepower on offense. The Titans deserve a lot of credit for hanging tough, and if they can get healthy before the playoffs, they will be dangerous come January.
▪ The Patriots also deserve a ton of credit for winning the turnover battle, 4-0, and not getting discouraged when the game wasn’t quite going their way. They are 8-4 and back in first place in the AFC East. These are the type of wins that can build a lot of confidence.
▪ The Titans really controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides. Their offense, which had struggled running the ball since Derrick Henry was lost for the season, racked up 270 yards on 39 carries (6.9 average), the third-most rushing yards allowed in the Bill Belichick era. They certainly exposed some holes in the Patriots’ run defense, which came into the game ranked ninth in the NFL.
And the Titans’ defensive line manhandled the Patriots’ offensive line for much of the game. This was similar to the Week 4 game against the Buccaneers, when the Patriots rushed just eight times and abandoned the run game after halftime. Against the Titans, the Patriots did finish with 105 rushing yards, but most of it came in garbage time. The Patriots rushed eight times for 14 yards in the first half, and were consistently pushed back.
▪ The Titans’ dominance against the Patriots’ offensive line really showed up in the red zone. The Patriots finished with touchdowns on just 2 of 5 attempts inside the Titans’ 20, but it was 1 for 4 before a late touchdown in garbage time. They needed five field goals from Nick Folk, including three inside of 40 yards.
This game could have been over sooner had the Patriots taken advantage of their good field position and a few Titans turnovers. The Patriots only scored 6 points off three Titans’ turnovers, and sputtered inside the red zone.
▪ Mac Jones had a few plays he’ll want back, but overall he played well against a tough Titans’ defense. Jones had his second-career 300-yard game, and set a career high with 310 passing yards, and he threw two touchdown passes. He missed a wide-open Hunter Henry for a potential touchdown, had a potential interception dropped by Dylan Cole, and the Titans’ blitz tripped him up a couple of times. But Jones still completed 72 percent of his passes and threaded some beautiful passes in to Jakobi Meyers and Jonnu Smith.
Sunday’s win was a great learning opportunity for Jones, as he didn’t play his best but still came out with a comfortable win against one of the NFL’s best teams.
▪ Another great goal line stand from the Patriots’ defense, which is becoming a weekly occurrence. The Titans had first and goal from the 5 midway through the fourth quarter, and the game still on the line. But the Patriots got three straight stuffs, then Jackson intercepted Ryan Tannehill off a tip by from Devin McCourty.
▪ The Titans really hurt themselves with errors on special teams. They committed four penalties on kicks, with one penalty on a punt costing them 32 yards in field position. They also missed an extra point and a 44-yard field goal.
The Patriots dominated the field position game, with five drives starting ahead of their 35 yard line. The Titans only had one such drive all game.
Read more Patriots-Titans stories
- Patriots 36, Titans 13: The Patriots really took it to the Titans after Mac Jones took a big hit
- Dan Shaughnessy: Mac Jones can take the hits, make the plays, manage the game — and play in the cold
- Unconventional Review: In a matchup of talented, well-coached teams, Patriots wore down banged-up Titans
- ‘Eight games ain’t enough.’ Here’s what Bill Belichick had to say after the Patriots’ victory over the Titans
- ‘I love you, Coach.’ Mac Jones opens up on relationship with late high school coach Corky Rogers
- Titans coach Mike Vrabel knows the score: ‘This game’s about points, not stats’
Ben Volin can be reached at email@example.com.