How Bout Them Pats! A Week 12 win makes it 6 in a row, Titans the latest victim at 36-13
If you ask the fans, this Patriots team has been notorious for its multiple personalities.
The secondary is porous one day, and lockdown the second. The receivers were poor route runners yesterday, but are Pro Bowl candidates today. Mac Jones looks like Joe Montana some days...and nothing more than a Christian Ponder or Chad Henne the others.
But for Bill Belichick, there’s only one personality: “I’d like for our identity to be winning.”
For twenty years, winning is all Belichick knew. He won 6 Super Bowls, 3 AP NFL Coach of the Year awards, and has a whopping 31 playoff victories in the “Golden Era” of the New England Patriots. And in the post-Tom Brady era, it looked rather bleak. But now, it appears to be turning around.
The full story of what the Patriots journey without the best quarterback of all time remains to be told. But for now, what is unfolding with this team in late November is as addicting of a show as ever.
After going 2-4 to start the year, the Patriots stood strong to throttle the Tennessee Titans in Week 12 - their sixth straight win. The 36-13 final was not necessarily indicative of how this one went down; the Pats led 16-13 at half, and had to utilize their creativity like no other way they’ve had to this year. A staunch Titans defense tried to shut down the run game - and they did briefly succeed - but New England remained resilient and strong to find other ways to win.
Let’s take a look at some hitters from a big win in Foxboro this weekend.
Kendrick Bourne celebrates one of his two touchdowns in Sunday's contest against the Tennessee Titans. PIC: David Silverman / New England Patriots
Offensive flexibility & resiliency was the key.
In 2021, the Patriots have emphasized the run game in a manner that they historically have never even considered. This year, a large chunk of the offense has run through second-year tailback Damien Harris, Oklahoma draft pick Rhamondre Stevenson, and veteran Brandon Bolden. This has allowed some cushion for rookie QB Mac Jones to be more comfortable with less pressure in the pocket, and more on the run lanes. But on Sunday, the Titans defense tried to take the run game away...and they succeeded. The Pats only had 23 yards by way of the run game in the first half, and 105 total...very uncharacteristic, as it was their fewest since their Week 4 loss to Tampa Bay. But instead of rolling over, they put on their thinking caps...and utilized their weapons.
“We need to be able to do both at all times: throwing, running, screens,” said Mac Jones after the win. “They tried to take it (the run game) away.” So, no, the Patriots offense was not at their best, but they were creative. They leaned on Mac for big plays, they trusted Kendrick Bourne & Jakobi Meyers, and they were anchored by a solid offensive line to do it.
Defense holds strong.
While the stat sheet may suggest the Patriots defense wasn’t necessarily at its best today, they made the plays when it mattered. Although the Titans rushed for 270 total yards - Dontrell Hilliard ran for 139 and a TD - they were able to hold QB Ryan Tannehill to just 93 total passing yards, with JC Jackson intercepting him once (again!) and forcing a whopping FOUR turnovers in the second half.
Kyle Dugger & Matthew Judon - two of the Pats’ top defensive performers this season - showed out once again. Dugger was in on almost every play (5 tackles), and Judon is proving his worthiness as an edge rusher (4 tackles/1 sack).
Kendrick Bourne is building some momentum.
“I’m totally different,” Bourne told the media after the win. “When I first came in, I was swinging the ball everywhere - kinda playing my style of play - and he (Belichick) corrected it fast. It’s just dope how they’re developing me.”
Bourne, who caught 5 passes for 61 yards and 2 TD’s, was more than likely regarded as the lower tier receiver in a rejuvenated Pats offense at the beginning of the year. But he’s proved his worth as a reliable, quick, and skilled receiving weapon. I’m really liking how Bourne is settling into this offense.
UP NEXT: The Pats have their 13th consecutive game this year before they take a bye on Week 14. It’s on the road against the Buffalo Bills, who have had more of a perplexing season than I can contemplate. The Bills have a notoriously good defense, but after a 9-6 loss to the Jaguars and a 41-15 throttling at the hands of the Colts, you have to believe something might be broken in Buffalo. You’d have to think the Bills are early favorites - and, Vegas backs them with 3 points - but if the Pats maintain the same flexibility they showed today, this could be close. If the Bills bring their A-game on defense, expect a long, tough Monday night in Orchard Park. Two of the Pats’ next three games will be against the Bills, so there is lots to learn in any scenario.