With the field muddied and beat up it was reminiscent of the 'Soup Bowl' a few years back for the Patriots against the Baltimore Ravens. It was a factor in the game causing Stephen Gostkowski to miss an extra point in the first quarter and both placekickers to miss the uprights on field goal attempts..
On this balmy sixty-five degree day, the Patriots defense came to play yet again. With the team missing its middle anchor in Vince Wilfork and defensive back Chad Scott, they still were able to make big plays when needed. One of these big plays included Roosevelt Colvin causing and recovering a fumble on a sack of rookie phenom Vince Young.
Going into this game, I thought the team needed to carry some momentum into the playoffs. As sports fans, we see every single day how professional sports are such a streaky, finicky things. Even if they were handed a loss in the last game of the regular season, I felt that if the starters played with some tenacity and passion it should trickle over.
During the week, you heard all kinds of media asking, should New England sit the starters because the only thing you benefit from this game is whether you are the third or fourth seed? I personally felt that if they played for a while and had a good showing, then it is also something to build on and roll with for the playoff run.
How nice is for this team to have its defense running on all cylinders right now? Even without a run stopper out in Wilfork. I guess an ankle problem for a 350+ lineman can be a nagging problem also though. If their offense isn't clicking or is missing routes they can rely on two things with this team, the defense and the running game. Two very well scouted and well coached areas of the Patriots assault.
To sum up the drive and passion of number twelve though it is best put like this. Earlier this week Bill Belichick and coaches came to Tom Brady and told him that he wasn't going to be playing this Sunday and he jumped out of his seat and refused to sit. This guy is a quiet warrior amongst a league full of loud, noise making playmakers. Patriots fans need to sit back and enjoy these moments of having a premier quarterback at the helm.
The first half of this game was dominated 99.9 percent of the time by the Patriots with one glitch of an 81 yard punt return by Tennessee's 'Pacman" Jones right before half time. Brady's numbers were virtually flawless throwing only 4 incompletions and passing for 165 yards hitting 8 different receivers in the process. New England's touchdowns in the first half came via the sure hands of Corey Dillon. By the end of the game Dillon moved past O.J. Simpson into fourth place on the NFL's all-time rushing list. Simpson had 11,236 yards and Dillon 1has 1,238.
During the second half the defense continued to play well enough to hold the Titans at bay. With a few blemishes here and there, they played to win the game.
One of the many game balls had to be Asante Samuel's 2 interceptions on the day put him in the lead for interceptions. He has really come into his own over the years. I can remember when Ty Law was the talk of the town here in New England, even during this off-season, but this young talented defensive back has totally been one of the Patriots play stoppers and become a fan favorite.
The second game ball has to go out to Vinny Testaverde. 20 straight seasons with a touchdown pass. He hit Troy Brown with a bullet in the back of the endzone. A great quote from Bill Belichick about Testaverde before the game, "I'm not really into individual stats," noting that his goal, as always, is to win the game at hand. Too funny.
I wanted to personally add a note about Titans quarterback Vincent Young. I think he will be something special down the road. He carried a team that is definitely not a playoff caliber team solely on his shoulders. I think his inexperience showed with overthrows and underthrows during the game. He is going to be a special player if Tennessee can right the receiver problem.
Patriot nation held its collective breath again when Rodney Harrison was obviously illegally chop blocked and limped to the sidelines. I will tell you... watching this game I realized one thing, this Tennessee team is a dirty team. They are tough as nails but they are dirty players and it was obvious this was the case during this game.
I think that is the reason that Tom Brady was in there a lot longer than what everyone expected, it looked as if the starters that were still in there were 'ticked off' at the play of the Titans.
Bill Belichick answered the call when describe this game to a "T" with stating this game was "Good enough to win, that's it"
So, in closing, the main question before today's game was if the Pats were going to bring their best or rest everyone, I think they answered that with a playoff type game. They were hitting hard and running hard and today, passing hard.
So it might be the Patriot's AFC arch rival Denver Broncos traveling to Gillette stadium to give the Pats a revenge game in the first round to make up for last years bitter taste in their mouths.
Now it is a clean slate and a twelve-win season is in the rear window now. Like I said before, a little momentum never hurts heading down the stretch.
Shane is a lifelong Patriots fan who grew up in Worcester, MA. He showed his Patriots spirit representing his home team all over the world while in the military and attending games regularly through the years. He now resides in Bangor, ME where he roots for them from afar. He stands firm in his belief in the team and regularly makes the 500 mile round trip trek to watch them whenever he can.