For the second time this season, the ex-Patriots got the best of the 2018 Patriots.
Like Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions did in September, Mike Vrabel and the Titans (5-4) did on Sunday – completely dominating Bill Belichick and the Pats. This time, the Patriots fell 34-10 as their record dropped to 7-3 on the season. All three of the Patriots losses this season have come on the road.
Here are three things we learned on Sunday in Nashville.
You had a hunch going into the game that Vrabel was going to put the pressure on Tom Brady all afternoon. The Titans coach certainly did that as Brady looked like Drew Bledsoe in the pocket at times – displaying happy feet and also patting the ball with nowhere to throw to. The Titans sacked Brady three times and hit him three times as well.
It’s easy to tell early on in most games whether or not Brady is going to have a tough day. But typically, he has a security blanket when things aren’t going as planned to bail him out.
Noted security blanket Rob Gronkowski missed his third game in the past four weeks on Sunday due to back and ankle injuries. Gronk likely would have played if it was a playoff game or a must-win for the Pats, but Brady certainly could have used him Sunday against a tough Titans defense. Brady was forced to throw to third-string tight end Jacob Hollister at key moments in the second half, and Josh McDaniels even used Brady as a receiver on one sloppy trick play.
For sure, the Pats were in desperation mode on offense without No. 87.
Some blame for Brady
Belichick often says, “There’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady.” Right now, that would be a lie.
Brady is still an elite quarterback in the league for sure, but there have been signs of slippage this season and that was encapsulated on Sunday. Brady completed a season-low 51.2 percent of his passes against Tennessee. It was his lowest completion percentage in a game since that opening night blowout loss to the Chiefs a season ago.
Brady did not throw a touchdown pass Sunday and earned a 70.6 passer rating, his lowest since he registered a 65.1 in the loss to the Lions earlier this year.
He has just three games this season in which he’s thrown for over 300 yards, and also has just three games this season where he’s passed for three or more touchdowns.
A big stat for Brady has always been number of completions in a game and last year during the regular season he had five games in which he completed 30 or more passes. This season he has hit the magic 30 spot just once – 34 against the Colts in early October.
Step backwards for the D
The Patriots defense solved Aaron Rodgers pretty easily eight days ago, but the unit looked befuddled against the Titans offense from the get-go.
Tennessee put up 17 points in the first quarter on Sunday and the Pats could never recover. Stephon Gilmore was flagged for clutching and grabbing time and again, and their overall rush defense was mighty weak.
Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen and quarterback Marcus Mariota rushed for a combined 150 yards on 36 carries and two touchdowns.
A direct snap to Henry in the red zone in the fourth quarter was the lowlight on a day of lowlights for the Pats defense, as Henry jogged into the end zone from 10 yards out – untouched – for a touchdown.