Patriots dominate Titans to reach seventh straight AFC Championship

Foxborough, MA Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reacted after Brandon Bolden scored a touchdown (at right) in the third quarter. AFC Divisional Playoff game between the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)
Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Tom Brady pumped his fist after Brandon Bolden’s 2-yard touchdown run.

For the seventh straight year, the Patriots are headed to the AFC Championship Game.

Quarterback Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes as New England shredded the Tennessee Titans, 35-14, in the divisional round on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

After the Titans scored the first touchdown late in the first quarter, it was all Patriots.


New England moved the ball at will, rolling up 439 yards and scoring touchdowns on five of their 11 possessions. Two of those touchdown drives were at least 90 yards.

Get Sports Headlines in your inbox:
The most recent sports headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

The Patriots rendered the Titans’ offense inept, giving up just 267 total yards, 175 of which came on Tennessee’s two touchdown drives. Quarterback Marcus Mariota was sacked eight times, a postseason record for the Patriots, and hit 10.

Brady, who is 26-9 in the postseason, completed 35 of his 53 passes for 337 yards. It was his first 300-yard performance since Week 11.

Brady is now 12-2 in divisional playoff games since 2002, and he set the record for most postseason performances with three or more touchdown passes (10), surpassing Joe Montana (9).

Receiver Danny Amendola proved effective and valuable in New England’s 14th win of the season, notching playoff career highs in catches (11) and yards (112). Amendola is the ninth player to catch 10 or more passes from Brady in a single postseason game.


Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who finished with 6 catches for 81 yards, caught his 10th postseason touchdown, tied for third all-time.

Running back James White accounted for two scores, one on the ground and one through the air, making his six postseason touchdowns second-most by a running back in franchise history. Receiver Chris Hogan’s lone reception went for a 4-yard touchdown, and running back Brandon Bolden, who is used almost exclusively on special teams, scored his first-career postseason touchdown.

“The offense, everyone contributed. It was great,” Gronkowski said on the field after the game. “We all came in together and we worked together to get this win.”

The win extended the Patriots’ home playoff winning streak to seven and their divisional round streak to seven.

New England will face the winner of Sunday’s Pittsburgh-Jacksonville game in the AFC title game, which is scheduled for Jan. 21 at 3:05 p.m.


Below are updates from the game as it played out.

Box score. | Play-by-play. | NFL scoreboard.

4th quarter: Patriots 35, Titans 14

Tennessee cut into New England’s lead out of the 2-minute warning with Marcus Mariota finding Corey Davis for an 11-yard touchdown, the second time the pair connected for a score.

It capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive.

4th quarter: Patriots 35, Titans 7

Rob Gronkowski caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to continue the Patriots’ rout of the Titans, capping off a 15-play, 90-yard drive.

The drive was kept alive by an improvised 12-yard completion from Brady to Danny Amendola, who is having his best statistical postseason performance with 112 yards on 11 catches. Brady was flushed from the pocket on third and 10 and chucked it over to Amendola as he was falling backwards.

Brady has three touchdown passes on the night, the 10th time he has thrown three or more touchdowns in a playoff game, passing Joe Montana (9) for most all-time.

It was also the 10th time Brady and Gronkowski have linked up for a playoff touchdown.

3rd quarter: Patriots 28, Titans 7

A 2-yard run by Brandon Bolden padded the Patriots’ lead late in the third quarter.

Bolden’s first-career postseason touchdown capped a 9-play, 56-yard drive that began with a 27-yard completion from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski.

Bolden, a key specials teamer, came into Saturday’s game with just eight carries for 19 yards in 12 career playoff games.

Patriots right tackle injured

Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle (knee) is questionable to return after going down early in the third quarter. He walked off the field slowly with trainers and went into the medical tent. Backup Cam Fleming replaced him.

Halftime stats

Total yards: NE 256, TEN 168

Yards per play: NE 5.8, TEN 5.6

First downs: NE 19, TEN 9

Third down efficiency: NE 6-9, TEN 2-6

Penalties/yards: NE 2-13, TEN 6-37

Time of possession: NE 15:31, TEN 14:29

Tom Brady: 21 of 31, 206 yards, 2 TDs, 107.7 rating

Marcus Mariota: 9 of 15, 117 yards, TD, 3 carries, 31 yards, 106.8 rating

NE ballcarriers: Dion Lewis 10 carries, 39 yards; James White 3 carries, 11 yards, TD

TEN ballcarrier: Derrick Henry 11 carries, 24 yards

NE receivers: Lewis 5 catches, 66 yards; White 3 catches 15 yards, TD; Danny Amendola 7 catches, 62 yards; Rob Gronkowski 3 catches, 34 yards; Chris Hogan 1 catch 4 yards, TD; Brandin Cooks 2 catches, 25 yards.

TEN receivers: Corey Davis 2 catches, 26 yards, TD; Delanie Walker 2 catches, 40 yards; Eric Decker 2 catches, 34 yards; Rishard Matthews 1 catch, 8 yards; Taywan Taylor 1 catch, 5 yards; Jonnu Smith 1 catch, 4 yards.

2nd quarter: Patriots 21, Titans 7

A 4-yard touchdown catch by Chris Hogan gave the Patriots a two-score lead late in the first half. It capped a 16-play, 91-yard drive that was aided by a neutral zone infraction by the Titans on fourth and 5 at the New England 15-yard line.

It was Hogan’s first touchdown catch since Week 5 and his third career postseason touchdown.

Tom Brady, who has two touchdown passes so far in this contest, now has 65 postseason touchdown passes, 20 more than anyone else in NFL history.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

2nd quarter: Patriots 14, Titans 7

James White scored his second touchdown of the game, this one a 6-yard run, to give the Patriots their first lead.

White’s touchdown capped a quick 6-play, 48-yard drive.

Quarterback Tom Brady didn’t throw to his running backs on either of the Patriots’ first two drives, which both ended in punts. On the two drives since, he is 6-of-6 passing for 70 yards and one touchdown throwing to White and Dion Lewis. New England scored on both of those drives.

So far, Lewis and White have combined for 108 total yards on 16 touches.

2nd quarter: Titans 7, Patriots 7

The Patriots answered the Titans’ sc0re with a 7-play, 73-yard drive that was capped with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to James White.

White now has three career touchdown receptions in the playoffs, most by a running back in Patriots history. His five total postseason touchdowns are second-most by a running back in Patriots playoff history (LeGarrette Blount, eight).

David Andrews hoisted James White after White‘s 5-yard touchdown catch.
Barry Chin/Globe Staff
David Andrews hoisted James White after White‘s 5-yard touchdown catch.

On the drive, Dion Lewis had a 50-yard catch-and-run touchdown overturned after he was ruled down at the Tennessee 19-yard line. The 32-yard catch-and-run was Lewis’s longest of the season, topping a 20-yard catch in Week 14.

1st quarter: Titans 7, Patriots 0

The Titans used an 11-play, 95-yard drive to get on the scoreboard first. Marcus Mariota hit Corey Davis with a gorgeous throw over Malcolm Butler for the 15-yard touchdown.

Mariota opened the drive with a 36-yard pass to tight end Delanie Walker. The quarterback also picked up two first downs with his feet, running for 11 yards on third and 3 and another 11 on a second and 10.

Davis reeled in the touchdown pass with his left hand.
Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Davis reeled in the touchdown pass with his left hand.

Titans right tackle injured

Titans right tackle Jack Conklin (knee) was downgraded to out after getting rolled up on a Derrick Henry 4-yard run late in the first quarter. Conklin walked off the field under his own power and went to the locker room. Backup Dennis Kelly went in for Conklin.

Coin toss

The Titans called heads and the coin came up tails. The Patriots chose to receive the opening kickoff, the second straight week they have done so.

Warm it up

Here are a few photos from pregame warmups:

Fans react as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady comes onto the field.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Fans react as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady comes onto the field.

Team owner Robert Kraft and linebacker James Harrison shake hands before the game.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Team owner Robert Kraft and linebacker James Harrison shake hands before the game.

Rob Gronkowski greets the End Zone Militia before the game.
Jim Davis/Globe staff
Rob Gronkowski greets the End Zone Militia before the game.

Brady walks through the tunnel before taking the field.
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
Brady walks through the tunnel before taking the field.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Safety Patrick Chung and quarterback Marcus Mariota catch up during warmups.
Safety Patrick Chung and quarterback Marcus Mariota catch up during warmups.

Jonnu Smith of the Titans signs autographs before the game.
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
Jonnu Smith of the Titans signs autographs before the game.

Deatrich Wise Jr. gets loose before the game.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Deatrich Wise Jr. gets loose before the game.

Members of the Tennesse Titans, with bare feet and wearing shorts, sit on the bench on the field.
Barry Chin/Globe staff
Members of the Tennesse Titans, with bare feet and wearing shorts, sit on the bench on the field.

Kraft on the field before kickoff.
Barry Chin/Globe staff
Kraft on the field before kickoff.


For the Patriots, running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee, defensive lineman Alan Branch, receiver Kenny Britt, offensive lineman Cole Croston, linebacker David Harris, and cornerback Johnson Bademosi.

Receiver Chris Hogan and running back James White are active along with linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive lineman Eric Lee.

Tom Brady’s targets for the contest are receivers Hogan, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and Phillip Dorsett; running backs Dion Lewis, White, and special teamer Brandon Bolden; tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, and Jacob Hollister; and fullback James Develin.

For the Titans, quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Khalfani Muhammad, running back DeMarco Murray, defensive back Curtis Riley, linebacker Josh Carraway, offensive lineman Corey Levin, and defensive end David King.

Welcome to Gameday

It is the divisional round of the playoffs and the top-seeded Patriots play host to the fifth-seeded Titans with a spot in the AFC Championship Game on the line.

New England is coming off of a bye week while Tennessee pulled off a 22-21 road upset of Kansas City to advance through the wild card round.

If the Patriots win, they will play in their seventh consecutive conference championship, extend their home playoff winning streak to seven, and extend their divisional round winning streak to seven.

If the Titans win, they will play in their first conference championship since the 2002 season.

Follow along here as we update this post throughout the game. We’ll have a feed of Globe reporter tweets posts during the game too.

Game details:

Kickoff: 8:15 p.m.

TV/Radio: CBS / 98.5

Pregame reading

■ Here is Jim McBride’s scouting report, including matchups to watch and keys to victory for both teams.

■ Dan Shaughnessy: We’ve experienced trouble at the top with the Patriots before.

■ Tara Sullivan: When Patriots players turned their attention to their head coach, you know what they saw? The same guy they always do.

■ Film Study: What to expect from the Titans.

■ If there’s one thing that has helped Brandin Cooks earn the trust of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, it’s durability.

■ Rob Gronkowski is pumped up about playing in the postseason again.

■ Running back Derrick Henry is growing into his role with the Titans.

■ Titans cornerback Logan Ryan, the former Patriot, got coffee with coach Mike Mularkey this week to talk about his former team.

Pregame listening

Voice of the Patriots Bob Socci joins Chris Gasper to share his insights on Patriots-Titans.

Subscribe to Season Ticket: Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

A few notes on the Patriots and Titans

■ Receiver Malcolm Mitchell was not activated off injured reserve Friday and won’t play.

■ Temperatures will dip into the 20s by game time and linebacker James Harrison was asked if playing in the cold would benefit the Patriots. “I’ve played in a lot of cold. It still hurts,’’ he deadpanned. “It’s no advantage. Everybody feels the same thing.’’

■ Quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrown 42 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the red zone in his career — a stat that impressed Belichick. “He does a good job of taking care of the ball, period,’’ Belichick said. “They have a good scheme, good attack, and that’s just good decision making on his part. He makes a lot of good decisions, though — red area, not red area. He does a good job.’’

■ This will be the third playoff game between the franchises. In 1978, the then-Houston Oilers beat the Patriots, 31-14, at Schaefer Stadium, with Earl Campbell rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown, and Dan Pastorini throwing three touchdowns. In 2004, the Patriots beat the Titans, 17-14, courtesy of Adam Vinatieri’s 46-yard field goal with four minutes left.

■ Overall, the Patriots lead the series, 24-16-1, including playoffs.

Dion Lewis averaged 24.8 yards per kickoff return in the regular season.
Keith Srakocic/AP
Dion Lewis averaged 24.8 yards per kickoff return in the regular season.

■ The Patriots rank 12th in the NFL at 22.2 yards per return. The Titans rank 13th with 22.1. Dion Lewis, the Patriots’ human Swiss Army knife, has been the primary returner and was responsible for 23 of the Patriots’ 28 kickoff returns in 2017. Tennessee also has a do-it-all man in first-year cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, who played 12 snaps on offense and had five carries for 55 yards as well as playing nearly every snap on defense and returning kicks and punts.

■ Whether it’s because of Tom Brady’s Achilles’ injury, or injuries to Chris Hogan, James White, and Burkhead, or the cold weather settling in, or defenses figuring out the Patriots’ offense without Julian Edelman, there’s no question New England’s passing attack has come back down to earth over the last month and a half.

Brady hasn’t thrown for 300 yards in six straight games, and his deep passing numbers are significantly down, per the NFL. In his first 11 games this season, Brady completed 42.3 percent of passes of 20-plus yards, with five touchdowns, one interception, and a 113.5 rating. Over his last five games, Brady completed just 27.3 percent of such passes, with no touchdowns, three interceptions, and a 25.6 passer rating.

But his wide receivers haven’t been helping, either. Per the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, the Patriots’ receivers rank 29th in the NFL in average yards of separation at the quarterback’s release. That means the Patriots’ receivers are fourth-worst at getting open, and Brady is forced to fit the ball into tighter windows. That was especially the case in the second Miami game, when Rob Gronkowski was out and none of the Patriots’ receivers could get open.

■ Patriots guard Shaq Mason was the NFL’s top ironman on offense this season, leading all offensive players with 1,136 snaps played. He edged out teammate Joe Thuney, who was second with 1,134 snaps. Brady was fifth at 1,116, and Nate Solder tied for sixth at 1,114. Defensively, Malcolm Butler led the Patriots with 1,038 snaps but tied for 24th among all defensive players. Devin McCourty was 28th among defenders with 1,030

— Nora Princiotti, Jim McBride, and Ben Volin, Globe Staff

Globe reporter tweets

Alex Speier and Nora Princiotti contributed to this report. Follow Rachel G. Bowers on Twitter @RachelGBowers.