Patriots rout Titans in the snow
FOXBOROUGH - During his Friday news conference at Gillette Stadium, Patriots coach Bill Belichick seemed very relaxed, which took some in the media by surprise. Normally, Belichick is all business, but he was in a jocular mood, even cracking himself up with a few of his responses.
Belichick seemed to know something nobody else knew.
Perhaps it was the fact the winless Titans, who Belichick talked up all week long, were truly as bad as their 0-5 record indicated.
That much was evident by halftime of yesterday’s 59-0 rout in the snow, when the Patriots cruised to a 45-0 lead and Tom Brady had thrown for 345 of his 380 yards and five of his six touchdowns. Brady connected for scores three times with Randy Moss (eight catches, 129 yards) and twice with Wes Welker (10 catches, career-high 150 yards), as New England established franchise records for points and total offense (619 yards) in a game.
Laurence Maroney added some balance, rushing 16 times for a season-high 123 yards.
Chris Johnson was the lone bright spot for the Titans, carrying 17 times for 128 yards, with a long run of 48 yards.
It was the Patriots’ largest margin of victory in franchise history as the defense forced five turnovers, three of which led to scores in a 35-point eruption in the second quarter, leaving the Titans with a snowball’s chance of making a comeback.
Snow started falling in Foxborough about an hour before the 4:15 kickoff. Certainly, it had to leave 40-year-old linebacker Junior Seau, who signed a one-year deal Monday, wondering if he made the right decision to leave his sunny San Diego home for Foxborough.
Seau wound up being activated while Adalius Thomas, who did not appear on the injury report all week, was inactive for a non-injury-related issue for the first time since 2000.
The Patriots, who won the opening toss and deferred, suffered a bit of adversity on their opening offensive series when running back Sammy Morris got caught in a pile after a 5-yard reception and was helped off the field after injuring his left knee.
It not only left the Patriots with three backs - Maroney, Kevin Faulk, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis - but also marked the third consecutive game they had an offensive starter go down to injury. Running back Fred Taylor was felled by a fourth-quarter ankle injury two weeks ago against Baltimore and left tackle Matt Light suffered a right knee injury on the first play of the fourth quarter in last week’s 20-17 overtime loss at Denver.
The ill-fated first series ended when kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 39-yard field wide right with 10:30 remaining.
But that was the extent of the Patriots’ bad fortune as they scored 45 unanswered points on seven consecutive possessions in the first half, three of which were set up by Tennessee turnovers (fumble, fumble, interception).
When referee Gene Steratore signaled the end of the first half, he might as well have called it the end of the game.
Maroney went on a 45-yard burst up the middle that gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead with 5:51 left in the first.
But Welker surpassed that when he hauled in a 48-yard toss from Brady.
It was the Patriots’ first pass play of more than 40 yards this season. Those plays helped the Patriots erase the dubious distinction of being the only team in the league without a run of more than 20 yards and a pass longer than 40.
Welker’s grab set up Gostkowski’s 33-yard field goal, giving the Patriots a 10-0 lead with 47 seconds left in the first quarter.
New England’s defense, which gave up long scoring drives of 90 and 98 yards last week in Denver, came up with three consecutive turnovers, which each led to scores.
After Brandon Meriweather made a jarring hit on LenDale White, Jonathan Wilhite pounced on the loose ball at the Patriots 35. Six plays later, Brady connected with Moss on a 40-yard flea-flicker to make it 17-0 with 9:56 left in the second.
Titans quarterback Kerry Collins, hapless all afternoon, fumbled the snap on Tennessee’s next play from scrimmage. Mike Wright recovered for New England at the Titans 31 and, two plays later, it was 24-0 when Brady rolled to his left and found Moss streaking across the back of the end zone for a 28-yard strike with 8:59 left.
Things continued to snowball for the Titans when Collins lofted a badly underthrown pass to Nate Washington that Darius Butler intercepted at the Patriots 35. Four plays later, it was 31-0 Patriots after Brady threw a screen pass to Faulk that turned into a 38-yard touchdown.
Brady threw his fourth TD of the game on a 30-yarder to a wide-open Welker for a 38-0 lead with 1:53 to go before intermission. But the Patriots were hardly done scoring. After the Titans’ Reggie Hodges shanked a 21-yard punt to the Titans 49, the Patriots used all three of their timeouts on a 10-play drive that consumed 1:04 and resulted in Brady’s 5-yard TD toss to Welker with 12 seconds left.
Brady came out in the second half and led the Patriots to their eighth consecutive scoring drive when he connected with Moss on a 9-yard pass that capped a nine-play, 65-yard drive and made it 52-0 with 10:13 left in the third. Brady, who wound up throwing for a season-high 380 yards, handed the baton to rookie Brian Hoyer, who directed the Patriots to their ninth straight scoring drive by capping a 12-play, 61-yard march with a 1-yard plunge. It was Hoyer’s first career touchdown and gave the Patriots their franchise-record 59 points.