PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. TITANS
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Tom Brady completed his fourth consecutive game without throwing an interception. He finished 15-for-24 for 225 yards and a touchdown. His 62-yard scoring strike to Reche Caldwell was big because it came one play after the Titans scored, and it extended New England's lead to 13 points. Brady continues to spread the ball around, as eight players caught a pass in this game. Vinny Testaverde also throw a late touchdown pass, but it's Brady's efficiency and trust in his receivers that has the passing attack finally clicking on all cylinders at the most important time of year.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Patriots figured to have their way with a porous Titans rush defense, and they did. Both Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney finished with 5.6 yards per carry averages, as the team ran for 171 yards as a whole. Dillon had one of his best games of the season. He ran hard, finishing with 67 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Just as he did the previous week, Maroney put the game away in the fourth quarter with a late score. He finished with 73 rushing yards. The offensive line dominated at the point of attack, and both backs were able to take advantage of huge holes to get into the open field.
PASS DEFENSE: B -- Vince Young had a miserable day throwing the football. He only completed 15 of 36 attempts for 227 yards. He was able to make a couple of plays down the field, but most of his passes were just thrown up for grabs. Five players got to Young, and he was under heavy fire even when he wasn't sacked. Drew Bennett had a solid game catching four passes for 75 yards, although the receivers as a whole dropped far too many catchable balls. A combination of poor blocking by the offensive line, dropped passes and errant throws made it difficult for the Titans offense to move the ball through the air with any consistency. Credit the Patriots coaching staff for coming up with a great defensive game plan.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- Similar to last week in Jacksonville, the Patriots rush defense started off slowly before stiffening in the second half. Travis Henry had 98 yards at halftime but could only manage 4 yards on nine carries in the second half. While Henry had some early success, Young couldn't get out of the pocket. The Patriots outside pass rush did a good job of hemming in Young and not letting him get to the edge. The rookie did have a 28-yard touchdown run, but even that was well defended. It was just a spectacular play by Young to break free. Other than a couple of long Henry runs, the Patriots put the clamps on Tennessee's ground game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- This was a wild and wacky game on special teams. Both Stephen Gostkowski and Rob Bironas missed chip-shot field-goal attempts. Gostkowski also had an extra point blocked. Todd Sauerbrun finally got off a booming 57-yard punt, but it was returned 81 yards for a touchdown by Pacman Jones. Ellis Hobbs had a good day returning kicks as well, averaging 26.6 per return. The punters were terrible. Sauerbrun had a 26.4 net average, while Craig Hentrich's was only 25.0. In Sauerbrun's defense, he was trying to keep the ball away from Jones, who was the difference-maker on special teams in this game.
COACHING: A-minus -- Bill Belichick and his staff did it once again. After the debacle in Miami, Belichick rallied his team to win its final three games, despite injuries to key players. The Titans couldn't stop the run, so instead of spreading them out as the Patriots have been doing to defenses recently, New England ran the ball down Tennessee's throat. Defensively, the Patriots had a perfect game plan. They kept Young in the pocket and wouldn't allow him to get outside. Without being able to use his legs, Young had to rely on his arm, which isn't his strength quite yet. It was another great game plan by Belichick, who is the main reason why the Patriots are once again in contention to win the Super Bowl.
TITANS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: D -- It was far from QB Vince Young's finest day. He connected on only 15 of 36 passes for 227 yards. He absorbed five sacks and threw two interceptions and no touchdowns.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- The Titans managed 135 yards on the ground and got another 100-yard game from RB Travis Henry. But the Titans managed only 35 yards after halftime, and 28 of those came on a TD scramble by Young. Young also lost a fumble.
PASS DEFENSE: D-plus -- The pass defense allowed passes of 62 (TD) and 52 yards while three different QBs managed to pick the Titans apart. Tom Brady, Matt Cassel and Vinny Testaverde combined to complete 17 of 28 passes for 254 yards with two TD passes and no interceptions.
RUSH DEFENSE: F -- Tennessee allowed both RB Corey Dillon and RB Laurence Maroney 5.6-yard averages as the two combined for 140 yards and three TDs.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Pacman Jones provided a major boost with an 81-yard punt return TD. He gave the Patriots major headaches with a total of 259 return yards on punts and kickoffs. K Rob Bironas hit three field goals from 25, 27 and 27 yards but missed a 23-yarder wide right. The Titans allowed a couple quality returns and P Craig Hentrich managed a net of only 25 yards on four punts.
COACHING: C-minus -- The Titans had been great during a six game-winning streak. But in the first game in a long time where they really had something at stake, they played a bit nervous and never seemed to gain the feeling that they'd be able to overcome anything they had to.