NASHVILLE, Tenn. — They were a box to be checked.
A .500 team positioned right before the bye week. A speed bump for the Patriots, if there ever was one. A game rife with storylines, not necessarily competitive substance.
And then the Titans proved, well, titanic.
New England took a 34-10 beating at the hands of the Titans, one that snapped the six-game winning streak it carried into a sold-out Nissan Stadium on Sunday. Led by former Patriots linebacker and current first-year coach Mike Vrabel, Tennessee led from wire to wire and harassed Tom Brady throughout. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, on the other hand, completed 16 of 24 passes for 228 yards and a couple scores.
New England’s defense surrendered 150 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns to Derrick Henry.
Offensively, the Patriots (7-3) totaled 284 yards and went 3-of-15 on third down. They gave up three sacks and six hits on Brady. Brady finished 21-of-41 for 254 yards throwing to a receiving corps that boasted only one reliable target in Julian Edelman.
It was ugly from the start.
On a third-and-goal snap, Titans tight end Jonnu Smith capped the game’s opening drive with a four-yard touchdown catch from Mariota. Smith had beaten Patriots safety Pat Chung running across left to right across the end zone, where he caught Mariota’s eye and short lob.
New England answered with a field goal, but failed to slow Tennessee’s offense. Mariota led a 77-yard march highlighted by his gorgeous end-zone throw to Corey Davis. Davis, who surprisingly bested Patriots No. 1 cornerback Stephon Gilmore over the first half, kept possession as he tumbled out of bounds for a score.
After the Titans tacked on an ensuing field goal, New England found needed offensive rhythm over a 10-play drive sustained by a fourth-and-two conversion inside the red zone. Once Sony Michel caught Brady’s play-action pass, he watched James Develin take his first regular-season carry since 2014 for a 1-yard touchdown rush and a 17-10 deficit.
But that was all the scoring the Patriots would see for some time. Meanwhile, afforded another short field, Tennessee rode Derrick Henry in for a 1-yard touchdown and 24-10 lead with 1:09. Unable to lead New England’s offense past midfield, Brady ended the first half by taking an eight-yard sack before his receivers even reached the end zone to warrant a Hail Mary pass attempt.
Titans kicker Ryan Succop extended Tennesse’s margin to three scores late in the third quarter. Defensively, the Titans held the Pats to 3.5 yards per play in the third, when left tackle Trent Brown and tight end Dwayne Allen were both forced to miss snaps due to injury.
On its opening drive of the fourth quarter, New England was turned away by former Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan, who knocked away a Brady pass on fourth-and-6 to seal New England’s fate.
Minutes later, Henry shut the door with a 10-yard rushing touchdown.