FOXBOROUGH — Tom Brady posted a hype video to his Instagram page about nine hours before kickoff on Saturday. The video tells the story of a lion, which the narrator explains hyenas and jackals are barking and laughing at, “Til one day, that lion gets up and tears the [expletive] out of everybody.” The metaphor, about everyone counting out Brady and the Patriots, was obvious.
Mike Vrabel certainly watched it. The Titans’ coach brought it up with his players as soon as he walked into the locker room following his team’s 20-13 upset of the Patriots on Saturday.
“They want the hyenas?” Vrabel shouted to his players, per a source who was in the locker room. “They got the [bleeping] hyenas!” The players then broke out in unison in high-pitched hyena laughter.
Vrabel played for the Patriots for eight seasons, and learned a lot of Bill Belichick’s tricks. One of them is using any perceived slight by the opponent as motivation.
Vrabel improved to 2-0 against his mentor with Saturday’s win.
Vrabel’s message to his players during the week of practice: “Don’t stare at the pinstripes,” receiver A.J. Brown said. Vrabel was comparing the Patriots to the Yankees, and telling his players not to get caught up in the mystique.
“Don’t get overwhelmed,” Brown said. “The past is the past. That’s what he kept preaching all week.”
“We understand they got the banners, they just won the Super Bowl,” safety Kevin Byard added. “But we can’t get caught up into that. Don’t buy into the hype.”
For a change, it was the Patriots giving their opponents bulletin board material with a surprisingly cocky statement. The offender was linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who said on WEEI, “We have a chance to go on a revenge tour. What better way to start off than with Tennessee, who we lost to last year. Got big motivation.”
Cornerback Logan Ryan, who played for the Patriots from 2013–16, took Van Noy to task after the game.
“My guy Kyle Van Noy calling it a revenge tour — just play ball, Kyle,” Ryan said. “Kyle Van Noy is running his mouth, giving us bulletin board material about his revenge tour. His revenge tour ended early.”
“My man Van Noy has been tripping, so his revenge tour ended early. I hope he enjoys it.”
Ryan also enjoyed picking off Brady at the end of the fourth quarter, returning it for the game-sealing touchdown and atoning for his dropped interception in the second quarter.
“I always pride myself on having great hands, and I dropped the easiest pick of my career,” Ryan said. “But I had faith. I think everyone of my teammates knew that was a fluke. I believed it, it came right back to me again, so I appreciate TB12 for that one, man. That one’s going on my mantel.”
The Titans certainly reveled in becoming the first team to beat the Patriots at home in the playoffs since the Ravens in the 2012-13 season. The Titans also beat the Patriots last season, 34-10, in Nashville.
“They know we won the last two,” center Ben Jones said.
And the Titans took it right at the Patriots’ No. 1 defense, rushing 40 times for 201 yards (5.0 average), including 182 yards and a touchdown for Derrick Henry.
“We beat their [expletive],” center Ben Jones said. “That’s an O-lineman’s dream. You run the ball and you’re imposing your will on them, and tonight they had to take it.”