Week 17 Game Recap: New England Patriots 40, Tennessee Titans 23
What you need to know
The Patriots had already clinched their fourth AFC Eastern Division title, but were determined to go into the playoffs on a roll. They did not let up on the scrappy Titans, who were desperate for a win. It was a hard hitting game, which turned ugly after S Rodney Harrison suffered a knee injury when WR Bobby Wade legally blocked him on a running play. After that play, New England was flagged nine times for 129 yards including four personal fouls.
Tom Brady took advantage of the rainy day, soggy field, and aggressive Titan defense, using pump fakes and even a flea flicker, to help build a 19–3 lead in the first half. He completed 15 of 24 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown before being lifted in the fourth quarter. Corey Dillon ran well on the muddy field, rushing for 67 yards on 12 carries, and scoring touchdowns on runs of 21 and one yards. Laurence Maroney carried 13 times for 73 yards and punched in another touchdown from one yard out in the fourth quarter.
Matt Cassel made an appearance in the fourth quarter, but only attempted one pass that fell incomplete. Vinny Testaverde entered the game late and complete a seven yard TD pass to Troy Brown, which set a new NFL record of 20 straight seasons with a least one touchdown pass. Reche Caldwell led New England receivers with 4 catches for 134 yards and one touchdown.
The defense was gashed in the first half by Travis Henry, but New England started playing eight men near the line of scrimmage. They effectively shut down the Titan running game and dared Young to beat them with his arm. He couldn’t, and was sacked five times and turned the ball over three times.
The clock struck midnight for the Cinderella Titans at the hands of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Tennessee was trying to become the first team in NFL history to start a season 0-5 and still make the playoffs, but their six game winning streak came to a screeching halt. The effort was there, but the running game vanished in the second half.
The physical play of hard nosed offensive linemen Kevin Mawae and Jacob Bell seemed to fire up New England’s defense, and play turned ugly early on after S Rodney Harrison suffered a knee injury when WR Bobby Wade legally blocked him on a running play. Travis Henry found early success on the ground, ripping off gains of 17, 25, and 34 yards on way to 98 yards on 12 carries in the first half. Then New England adjusted, and began to crowd the line of scrimmage with eight man fronts. In the second half, Henry could only grind out six yards on nine carries.
Vince Young had a tough outing, finishing with 15 of 36 for 227 yards, no touchdowns, three turn overs, and five sacks. New England pinched in from the outside to keep him in the pocket, or at least from scrambling out to the edges. Young managed to break contain once and scramble up the middle 28 yards for a touch down, making the score 26–23 in the third quarter, but Tennessee could not score again.
Near the end of the first half, Adam “Pacman” Jones returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown when newly signed punter Todd Sauerbrun out kicked the Patriot coverage. The score narrowed New England’s halftime lead to 19–10.
The Tennessee defense could not stop the Patriots, who gained 414 yards including 171 on the ground.
What you ought to know
|QB Tom Brady, Pass: 15 - 24 - 225 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0|
Brady was physically beat up in the win over Jacksonville last week, to the point that he missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. He looked to be in fine health Sunday, however, as he took advantage of the rainy day, soggy field, and aggressive Titan defense, to lead New England to a convincing win. He completed 15 passes to eight different receivers for 225 yards, before being lifted in the fourth quarter.
With his seven yard TD pass to Troy Brown with 1:45 left in the game, Testaverde set an NFL record by throwing at least one TD pass in 20 straight seasons. He completed two of three passes for 29 yards and the one score.
|QB Matt Cassel, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0|
Cassel made a brief appearance in the fourth quarter, but his once pass attempt fell incomplete.
Maroney appears to be fully recovered from his rib injury. He rushed 13 times for 73 yards and punched in a fourth quarter TD. He also caught two passes for negative yardage.
|RB Corey Dillon, Rush: 12 - 67 - 2, Rec: 2 - 59 - 0 (2 targets)|
Dillon ran well on the muddy field, churning out two touchdowns runs and gained 126 total yards. He rushed for 67 yards on 12 carries, and also caught two screen passes for 59 yards as New England took advantage of the aggressive Titan pass rush.
Dillon’s 67 rushing yards give him 11,241 career yards, moving him past O.J. Simpson into the 14th spot all time. His 13 rushing TDs this year ties Curtis Martin for the single season franchise record.
|RB Heath Evans, Rush: 1 - 14 - 0, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 (3 targets)|
With Faulk inactive, Evans picked up some of the slack, rushing once for 14 yards and gaining another 14 yards on two pass receptions.
Faulk was inactive for this game.
Continues to be Brady’s big play target, catching four balls for 134 yards, including a clutch 62 yard bomb that put New England up 26–13.
Brown only caught three passes for 13 yards, but got himself in the record book for catching Testaverde’s NFL record TD pass.
|WR Chad Jackson, Rush: 1 - 6 - 0, Rec: 2 - 23 - 0 (2 targets)|
Jackson caught both passes thrown to him, and also ran a reverse for six yards. The rookie from Florida also averaged 32.5 yards on two punt returns.
Gaffney caught one pass for six yards in limited action.
Kight gained eight yards on a reverse but failed to catch the one pass thrown to him.
The official stat line reads one catch for six yards.
The big rookie from Texas, and former Longhorn teammate of Vince Young, failed to catch the one pass thrown his way.
Watson was again inactive for this game.
The wet, sloppy field did not make kicking easy, as Gostkowski hit FGs from 28 and 26 yards, but missed from 36. He also had one PAT blocked and finished hitting four of five.
Travis Henry, who had gained 98 yards by half time, gashed the defense early. New England started playing eight men near the line of scrimmage, however, and Henry only managed six yards on nine carries the rest of the game. As a team, Tennessee gained 135 yards, but 28 came from Vince Young on a TD scramble up the middle of the field. New England shut out Tennessee in the fourth quarter.
Despite losing Rodney Harrison early in the game, the Patriots sacked Young five times, intercepted him twice, and slammed the door on the patented Vince Young fourth quarter comeback. While Young passed for 227 yards, he completed less than half his attempts for zero touchdowns. Special teams had a breakdown at the end of the first half, when Sauerbrun out kicked the Patriots’ punt coverage and Adam “Pacman” Jones ran it back 81 yards for a touchdown.
|QB Vince Young, Pass: 15 - 36 - 227 - 0 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - 29 - 1|
Young completed 15 of 36 for 227 yards, but had no touchdown passes. He managed to split the Patriots’ defense with a 28 yard scramble for a third quarter touchdown, but the Titans were shut out in the fourth quarter. He also threw two interceptions, lost a fumble, and was sacked five times.
While Young came up short in this game, he has had a phenomenal season. His 8 – 5 record as a starter is the fifth most wins by a rookie QB in NFL history, a great achievement playing for a team that started the year 0–5. The fact that the Titans were playing the last game of the season with even an outside shot at a playoff berth was truly remarkable.
|RB Travis Henry, Rush: 21 - 102 - 0, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (2 targets)|
Henry was again the workhorse of the offense, gaining 102 yards on 21 carries. He gained 98 yards in the first half alone, before New England stacked the line of scrimmage and shut him down in the second half. He also caught one pass for three yards. The Patriots are among the toughest teams to run against, only allowing 91.5 yards per game.
In spelling Henry, White rushed for four yards on two carries, but did not catch the one pass thrown to him.
The undrafted free agent, and Young’s teammate at Texas, had no carries, but caught one pass for three yards.
Brown was inactive for this game.
After being shut out in the last two games, Bennett showed up in a big way for this game. He caught four passes for 75 yards, easily the best on the team.
Wade caught four passes for 33 yards, but was involved in a play that may impact the Patriots in the playoffs. Wade was slotted out to the right as Travis Henry ran a stretch play to his side. Wade went up field to block Rodney Harrison, but Harrison suffered a knee injury on the play. It was a legal block where Wade went low on Harrison. Harrison felt it was a cheap shot but it was easily a legal play. This was not a crack back block. Wade went straight after Harrison, squared up to block him, and blocked him straight on about the level of his thighs.
Williams saw action in the second half of the game, catching two passes for 32 yards as the Titans’ comeback attempt fell short.
Jones had a tough afternoon overall, but did gain 53 yards on his only catch. He seems to be on the same wavelength as Young, and just missed on a few other passes. He has had some big days in the second half of the season, and appears to be fully recovered from the severe knee injury he suffered last season.
Roby did not show up on the stat sheet.
Hartsock caught two passes for 28 yards.
Scaife was unable to catch a pass, but at least he was healthy enough to play after being inactive the past few games.
It was unclear how difficult it was to kick on such a muddy field, but the usually reliable Bironas missed a FG from 33 yards out. He also hit from 25, 23, and 27 yards, and made both extra points.
The Titans were unable to stop Dillon and Maroney, who together gained almost 200 total yards. Tennessee surrendered 171 yards on the ground, as New England scored three rushing touchdowns.
The Titans did not have much success stopping Tom Brady, who passed for 225 yards and one touchdown, while hitting eight different receivers. Tennessee managed to sack him twice, but did not record an interception. Adding insult to injury, with the game out of hand, 43 year old Vinny Testaverde was sent into the game in the last two minutes to throw a record setting touchdown.