The Titans absolutely dominated the New England Patriots in every way possible today. Offense, defense, special teams, coaching... everything was lopsided in favor of the two-tone blue at Nissan Stadium. This was as close as you can get to a perfect football game. Let’s get to the winners and losers from Titans 34, “Titans of the North” 10.
After a tough week in Dallas, many were concerned about the Patriots further exposing Butler’s tendencies to bite on double moves. Instead we saw a return of “Good Butler” as the Titans big offseason addition was hardly ever targeted by his former team. He was a part of a Tennessee secondary that held Tom Brady to just 21 of 41 passing (51.2%) for 254 yards, an average of just 6.2 yards per attempt.
It was good to see Butler put together this type of game against his former team, especially after the way things ended for him in New England. Regardless of what you think of Butler’s first 8 games as a Titan, this is the kind of performance that Jon Robinson envisioned when he signed him this offseason. If that player shows up more frequently down the stretch, it completely changes the ceiling for this Titans defense (which is already very high).
Davis played like a superstar on Sunday, catching 7 of 10 targets for 125 yards and a touchdown. He also drew a big pass interference call. Two of those 7 catches were absolutely fantastic plays by the second year wide receiver.
Mariota to Corey Davis for the TD! Beautiful throw. pic.twitter.com/WfCBXNDvwN— Ty Wurth (@WurthDraft) November 11, 2018
His most impressive catch of the game was an 8-yard third down conversion where he made a leaping, twisting snag to haul in a pass that was both high and behind him. Not only did Davis put up big numbers, but he did so while being shadowed by one of the NFL’s best corners in Stephon Gilmore. He regularly roasted Gilmore during this game. Davis clearly loves playing the Pats.
Mariota came out hot, throwing touchdown passes on the Titans first two drives of the game. He showed remarkable presence in the pocket and did a great job of not only avoiding pressure, but doing so while keeping his eyes down field. He found Corey Davis for a big gain outside the pocket during the first drive and ended that march with a strike to Jonnu Smith on a similar play. He cooled off a little bit later in the game, but his final line was an efficient 16 of 24 for 228 yards for a huge 9.5 yards per attempt average, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Oh, and he also added 21 yards rushing and 21 yards receiving to an excellent day.
Mariota has now strung together three straight very strong games and appears to be both feeling better physically and gaining a firmer grasp of Matt LaFleur’s offense. He’s thrown 5 touchdowns to just 1 interception over that timeframe and looked much more comfortable.
Jackson was given the tall task of tracking Josh Gordon most of the game and while Gordon did end up with 81 yards, he did that while catching just 4 of 12 targets. That lack of efficiency was largely a reflection of Jackson’s coverage. He was credited with just 2 passes defended officially — which is still a strong game for a corner — but he was there cutting off Gordon’s path or otherwise disrupting him all game. Jackson’s emergence as a borderline shutdown corner has been largely overshadowed by Butler’s struggles across from him, but he should get massive credit for his performance in this game. He was the best of a thoroughly outstanding secondary performance today.
The veteran linebacker was all over the field on Sunday, stuffing the stat sheet with 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for loss, and 3 additional hits on Tom Brady. The Titans inside linebacker group has been outstanding over the past few games with Woodyard, Jayon Brown (who also had a sack today), and Rashaan Evans all playing at a very high level.
Batson got a lot of snaps with Taywan Taylor sitting out with a foot injury this week and he showed why the Titans chose to keep him over other options on the 53-man roster. He had just 2 catches for 36 yards, but once again they were both third down conversions, including a fantastic toe-dragging snag along the sideline. He’s been good when pressed in to action and could be in line for a bigger role as the season continues.
Batson profiles — ironically — as your prototypical New England slot receiver. He’s just 5’-8” tall, but he’s smart (high school valedictorian and three-time All-Big 12 Academic honoree), fast (4.32 40 time at Texas Tech’s pro day), and fearless. Call me crazy, but I think the Titans could really have something with Batson.
The Jonnu Smith redemption train continues to gain steam. He was the Titans second-leading receiver on the game, catching all 3 of his targets for 45 yards and a touchdown. He showed off some outstanding run after catch ability in the process. He’s now got touchdowns in back to back games since the bye week.
Henry remains the clear Robin to Dion Lewis’ Batman, but the big back took advantage of his limited opportunities against New England, rushing for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 11 carries. He continues to be efficient in goalline situations and may have earned a bigger workload against the Colts with his performance down the stretch in this one.
The Titans physical safety set the tone for the excellent defensive performance on the very first play of the game.
He absolutely wrecked James White on this swing pass, showing the play recognition, closing speed, and aggression that once made him a first round pick. I feel like I say this every week, but Vaccaro has been a massive help for this Titans defense. The other 31 teams should be ashamed for leaving him sitting on the market all summer. He and Kevin Byard are an elite combo on the back end.
This must have felt pretty good for the former Patriot. Vrabel and his staff completely outcoached Belichick in this one. The Titans didn’t appear to be surprised by anything the always shapeshifting Patriots threw at them. Instead, Tennessee appeared to be the more prepared squad, frustrating Brady on defense with sticky coverage and well-timed blitzes while the offense remained balanced and efficient all game. Vrabel even managed to get in an expert level troll of his former coach by running the same reverse pass that New England had used on its previous offensive series and doing it better.
Vrabel’s team played with a swagger and confidence from start to finish. It was clear that they weren’t intimidated by the Patriots. The Titans were the aggressor.
Just under 10 years after Belichick traded Vrabel to the Chiefs, his former pass catching linebacker came back and thumped him as an opposing head coach. What’s that they say about payback?
LOL, not today