FOXBORO — The New England Patriots’ quest for a record seventh Super Bowl championship ended Saturday night at Gillette Stadium with a 20-13 upset loss to the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs.
The defeat may signal the beginning of the end for the Patriots partnership between coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.
The Pats have Derrick Henry the best running back in the NFL to thank for their early departure from the playoffs.
Henry finished the game with 182 yards on the ground and a touchdown. He was the Titans’ workhorse in between the tackles and got them those tough yards when they called his number.
“We don’t want it easy, we want it greedy, we want it dirty,” Henry said postgame, per ESPN’s Turron Davenport. “My main focus is finishing each and every drive on all three phases. Don’t give up on each other, believe, communicate while we out there, what we’re seeing so we can make adjustments as a team. Keep striving and finishing the game.”
The Titans game plan was very simple, run Henry left, run Henry right but just run Henry. Tennessee wanted to shorten the game by controlling the ground game.
The game’s first three possessions wound up as three long scoring drives. A 29-yard screen pass to James White which set up a 36-yard field goal by Nick Folk, but the Titans would answer with a 75-yard drive featuring Henry. The drive ended with Tannehill’s pass to tight end Anthony Firkser that made it 7-3.
The score at the half, Titans 14, Patriots 13, and remained scoreless to the end of the third. Tannehill threw a pass on heavy duress short of his target the pass was intercepted by Duron Harmon.
Henry finished the half with 106 yards on 14 carries.
New England answered with its own 75-yard drive, running the ball on the edge. Sony Michel gashed the Titans for a 25-yard run and White had a 14-yarder.
Tannehill entered the night with an 0-6 record at Gillette Stadium, all in a Dolphins uniform. He completed 8 of 15 passes for 72 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But lucky for Tannehill he had Henry in the backfield.
Tannehill led the NFL with a career-best 117.5 passer rating and by averaging 9.6 yards per pass attempt. But he didn’t do a whole lot Saturday night in his first postseason game.
“It’s a great win against a great team in a hostile environment,” Henry said on his 26th birthday. “Credit to my team. I’m just happy we were able to advance.