The Tennessee Titans (3-10) travel to face the AFC East-leading New England Patriots (11-2) this week. Kickoff at Gillette Stadium (capacity 68,756) is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST/noon CST on Sunday, Dec. 20.
TITANS LOOKING FOR FOURTH WIN: After defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium on Dec. 6, the Titans traveled to New York last week in search of their second consecutive win. However, they were turned away by the Jets, who used three touchdown passes by Ryan Fitzpatrick and 183 total rushing yards to defeat the Titans 30-8.
The Titans’ lone touchdown of the contest came on a 41-yard pass from running back Antonio Andrews to rookie Marcus Mariota, who is the first quarterback in franchise history to record a touchdown reception. He is the first NFL player in 2015 to pass for a touchdown, rush for a touchdown and catch a touchdown pass, and the only other rookie in the Super Bowl era (1966–present) to accomplish the feat is Kordell Stewart (1995). Prior to Mariota, the most recent player to record touchdowns of at least 40 yards passing, rushing and receiving in the same season was Walter Payton in 1983.
With three games remaining in his rookie season, Mariota already has set the franchise rookie records for pass attempts (364), completions (227), passing yards (2,786) and passing touchdowns (19). With one more touchdown pass, he could become the 10th quarterback in NFL history to reach 20 touchdown passes as a rookie. Tampa Bay rookie Jameis Winston, who has 18 touchdown passes, also could reach the mark in the next three weeks.
Mariota was not the only offensive player to reach a significant milestone against the Jets. Delanie Walker broke Frank Wycheck’s franchise record for the most receptions in a season by a tight end. Wycheck set the record by hauling in 70 passes in 1998, and he matched the mark in 2000. Walker’s 2015 totals now include 74 receptions for 871 yards and four touchdowns. He leads the team in all three categories and needs 20 more receiving yards to break the franchise record he set in 2014 of 890 receiving yards by a tight end.
The Titans go into New England looking for their fourth win of the season. They are 2-4 under interim head coach Mike Mularkey, who took the reins on Nov. 3. After playing the Patriots, they finish the season with a home game against the Houston Texans (Dec. 27) and a road finale at the Indianapolis Colts (Jan. 3).
PATRIOTS SEEKING ANOTHER DIVISION TITLE After experiencing back-to-back losses to the Denver Broncos (Nov. 29) and Philadelphia Eagles (Dec. 6), the Patriots voyaged to Houston last week for a Sunday night battle against the Houston Texans. Tom Brady passed for 226 yards and a pair of touchdowns to help with Patriots win 27-6 and break the rare losing skid. The Patriots defense recorded five sacks and allowed only a pair of field goals in the dominating effort.
As a result of the victory, the Patriots clinched a playoff berth. With one more win or a Jets loss, they will seal their seventh consecutive AFC East title to match the Los Angeles Rams (1973-79) for the most consecutive division titles in NFL history.
With the Patriots getting to the 11-win mark against the Texans, Bill Belichick recorded the 13th 11-win season of his head coaching career to tie Don Shula for the most in NFL history. Belichick has 12 seasons with at least 11 wins with New England and one such season with Cleveland. Brady is in his 16th season with the Patriots. Already this season he became the fourth NFL player to reach 400 career touchdown passes and the fourth player in history with at least 30 or more touchdown passes in six different seasons. Brady leads the NFL with 4,138 passing yards in 2015, and against the Texans, he became the third player in NFL history with at least eight 4,000-yard passing seasons.
TITANS-PATRIOTS SERIES HISTORY
The Houston Oilers and Boston Patriots were charter members of the American Football League in 1960. In the league’s inaugural season, the Oilers swept both games, winning 24-10 in New England and 37-21 in Houston. The teams met 20 times as part of the AFL (1960-69), with the Patriots earning a 10-9-1 advantage.
Upon the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Oilers moved to the AFC Central Division, and the Patriots began play in the AFC East. They officially became the New England Patriots in 1971.
Since 1989, the Patriots and Titans have met 10 times, and all but three of those games were played in New England.
The most recent Titans-Patriots contest was played at Nissan Stadium to open the 2012 campaign (Sept. 9), with the Patriots prevailing 34-13. Titans quarterback Jake Locker made his first career start and completed 23 of 32 passes for 229 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington. However, Locker and Washington were both forced out of the game due to injury on the same play early in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was 23-of-31 for 236 yards and two touchdowns. The win gave the Patriots a 23-16-1 overall advantage in the series.
The last time the Titans traveled to New England, they suffered the worst loss in franchise history with a 59-0 defeat in a snowy Gillette Stadium on Oct. 18, 2009. In the victory, Patriots Brady passed for 380 yards and six touchdowns.
In the 2006 regular-season finale at Nissan Stadium, the Titans needed a victory against the Patriots to clinch a playoff berth. However, a 40-23 loss dropped their record to 8-8 and ended their Wild Card hopes.
The clubs met in New England in a 2003 AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium. In the coldest game in Oilers/Titans history (four degrees at kickoff), the Titans fell to the Patriots by a final score of 17-14. The game was tied at 14 going into the fourth quarter, but Adam Vinatieri booted a 46- yard field goal with four minutes to play that would prove to be the game-winner. Tennessee had a shot at the end as Drew Bennett caught two passes from Steve McNair in the final two minutes, but a third pass to Bennett fell incomplete on fourth-and-12, ending the drive. New England advanced to the AFC Championship and ultimately won Super Bowl XXVIII.
The 2003 playoff game was the second postseason contest between the teams. In a 1978 Divisional Playoff contest, the Oilers traveled to Schaefer Stadium and advanced with a 31-14 win, courtesy of three touchdown passes by Dan Pastorini and 118 rushing yards by Earl Campbell.
1 Player in NFL history—Marcus Mariota—who has recorded a game with 250 passing yards, three touchdown passes and 100 rushing yards.
2 Rookies in the Super Bowl era—Marcus Mariota and Kordell Stewart—who have passed for a touchdown, rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass. 1 Touchdown pass needed by Marcus Mariota to join nine other rookie quarterbacks in NFL history to reach 20 touchdown passes.
8.0 Percent of opponent passing plays resulting in sacks by the Titans defense, which ranks third in the NFL (Denver, New England). 11 Number of different Titans players who have caught touchdown passes this season, breaking the previous franchise record of 10 different players in 1961.
4 Games during his rookie season in which Marcus Mariota has completed at least three touchdown passes. He is the second rookie in NFL history to accomplish the feat, along with Peyton Manning (1998).
74 Receptions in 2015 by Delanie Walker, breaking Frank Wycheck’s franchise tight end record of 70 receptions in a season (1998 and 2000). 20 Receiving yards needed by Delanie Walker to break his own franchise tight end record among of 890 receiving yards in a season.
103 Tackles by inside linebacker Avery Williamson, who leads the team and became the first player for the team in the “Titans era” (1999–present) to begin his career with consecutive 100-tackle seasons.
3 Consecutive seasons by Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey with at least five sacks, including six sacks in 2015.
14 Rookies who have played for the Titans during their first 13 games: Marcus Mariota, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jeremiah Poutasi, Andy Gallik, Jalston Fowler, Angelo Blackson, Deiontrez Mount, Cody Riggs, Quinton Spain, Tre McBride, David Cobb, Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil, J.R. Tavi and Andrew Turzilli. All nine of the team’s draft picks in 2015 have played. 6 Players who started on offense last week and are rookies or second-year players: quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back Antonio Andrews, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, left tackle Taylor Lewan , left guard Quinton Spain and center Andy Gallik.
TITANS-PATRIOTS SERIES AT A GLANCE
Overall series (regular & postseason): Patriots lead 23-16-1
Regular season series: Patriots lead 22-15-1
Postseason series: Tied 1-1
Total points: Titans 807, Patriots 991
Current streak: Five wins by Patriots
Titans at home vs. Patriots: 10-7
Titans on road vs. Patriots: 6-16-1 (including 1-1 in playofffs)
Longest winning streak by Titans: 4 (1975-80)
Longest losing streak by Titans: 5 (2003–present)
Titans vs. Patriots at Nissan Stadium: 1-2
Last time at Nissan Stadium: PATRIOTS 34 at Titans 13 (9-9-12)
Titans vs. Patriots at Gillette Stadium: 0-3
Last time at Gillette Stadium: Titans 0 at PATRIOTS 59 (10-18-09)
First time: OILERS 24 at Boston 10 (11-25-60)
Mike Mularkey’s record vs. Patriots: 0-5
Bill Belichick’s record vs. Titans: 9-7 (4-6 with Cleveland; 5-1 with New England)
Mike Mularkey’s record vs. Bill Belichick: 0-5 A
TITANS VICTORY WOULD:
Give the Titans their first win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
Break the team’s five-game losing skid to the Patriots.
Improve Marcus Mariota’s starting record to 4-8.
Improve Mike Mularkey’s career record as a head coach to 18-36.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK
QB Marcus Mariota needs four touchdown passes to become the third player in franchise history to pass for four touchdowns at least three times in a season, joining George Blanda (1960, 1961) and Warren Moon (1990).
QB Marcus Mariota can become the first rookie in NFL history to complete three or more touchdown passes in five different games.
QB Marcus Mariota (19 touchdown passes) needs one touchdown pass to become the 10th rookie in NFL history with at least 20 touchdown passes (Jameis Winston has 18 this season).
QB Marcus Mariota (2,786 passing yards) needs 214 passing yards to record the 17th 3,000-yard season in team history and the first since Matt Hasselbeck in 2011.
TE Delanie Walker (74 receptions in 2015) needs six receptions to record the 13th 80-catch season in franchise history.
TE Delanie Walker (871 receiving yards in 2015) needs 20 receiving yards to set a new career high and break his own franchise tight end record of 890 receiving yards in 2014.
TE Delanie Walker (197 receptions with the Titans) needs three catches to pass Alvin Reed (199) for third on the franchise’s alltime receptions list among tight ends and become the third tight end in franchise history to reach 200 receptions (Frank Wycheck and Bo Scaife).
WR Kendall Wright (248 career receptions for 2,810 yards) needs two receptions to reach 250 for his career. He needs four receptions to pass Bo Scaife (251) for 13th place on the team’s all-time receptions list and needs nine yards to pass Alvin Reed (2,818) for 15th place on the team’s all-time receiving yards list.
Referee: Walt Coleman
Umpire: Bill Schuster
Head Linesman: Jerry Bergman
Line Judge: Kevin Codey
Field Judge: Boris Cheek
Side Judge: Jon Lucivansky
Back Judge: Rich Martinez
Replay Official: Lou Nazzaro
CBS Nashville Affiliate: WTVF News Channel 5
DirecTV Sunday Ticket: Ch. 707
Play-by-Play: Ian Eagle
Analyst: Dan Fouts
Sideline Reporter: Evan Washburn
Titans Radio Network Flagship: WGFX 104.5 FM-The Zone
Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 138
Play-by-Play: Mike Keith
Analyst: Frank Wycheck
Gameday Host: Rhett Bryan
Sideline Reporter: Jonathan Hutton
Westwood One Sports
Play-by-Play: John Sadak
Analyst: Ross Tucker