INSIDE SLANT: The Pats play the Tennessee Titans Sunday at 1 pm. The Titans should be referred to be as the Patriots South because they have Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Josh Kline and Deion Lewis. Their coach is former Pats LB Mike Vrabel and their General Manager is Jon Robinson who was the Pats Director of College Scouting. Their Defensive Coordinator is Dean Pees who was the Pats defensive coordinator. The Pats hope to make it seven straight wins against the Titans as they head into their bye week.
Julian Edelman said Wednesday that it will be interesting competing against former teammates Butler and Ryan. Edelman is particularly impressed with Butler given that he has gone from undrafted rookie to Super Bowl MVP to receiving a large contract. Butler has struggled in Tennessee despite the Titans being ranked No. 1 in many categories defensively. The Titans enter the game with the Pats with renewed confidence after beating the Dallas Cowboys - Monday Night coming off their bye week. Before their bye week, the Titans had lost three straight games including a woeful loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Titans beat the dysfunctional Dallas Cowboys Monday Night and Marcus Mariota executed the reed option well.
SERIES HISTORY: 40th meeting. The Pats are 23-15-1 against the Titans all-time (this includes when the Titans were the Houston Oilers). It has not been much of a rivalry. The Pats beat the Titans in the playoffs last year and beat the Titans in 2004 in the playoffs on the way to their second Super Bowl win. The Oilers also came into Foxboro in 1978 and defeated the Pats in their first home playoff game. Pats owner Robert Kraft, then a season ticket-holder, was at the game and remembers the heartbreak. One other highlight, the Pats played the Titans in Nashville in 2006 and Vinny Testaverde the Pats third string QB, threw a touchdown pass. His teammates applauded.
Bill Belichick on when he knew Mike Vrabel would be a good head coach. "Yeah, Mike’s got a lot of great qualities – great player, tough mentally and physically, smart, had a real passion for the game, was in great condition, could go all day, loved to play, loved to practice, great leadership. So, I think all those things transferred when he went to coach at Ohio State and then down to Houston and now Nashville. So, I have a ton of respect for Mike and I think he’s been a great coach. I think he’ll be a great head coach."
Bill Belichick on the struggles of CB Malcolm Butler. " I mean, look, they lead the league in defense, OK? So, that’s our challenge as an offense is we’re playing 11 guys, we’re playing their coaching staff and the schemes they put up against us. And, right now, they’re playing better defense than anybody in the league. So, we’ll see how we do. I don’t know. It will be tough, I know that."
Bill Belichick on the play of Trey Flowers: "He’s got good length. He’s quick, he’s very instinctive. Trey has a really good feel for leverage and the weight distribution of the players. So, if the guy’s light, he can push him back. If a guy’s kind of leaning on him, he can get around him with his quickness. He uses his hands well, he plays on his feet, he has good balance and he runs well. You know, he can run out and track guys down, make plays from the backside. But, he’s just got a good feel for the game. "
BY THE NUMBERS:
22 - the number of catches by Josh Gordon this season. The Pats were lucky Gordon was available after he wore out his welcome in Cleveland. Mike Vrabel said Wednesday that Gordon has a big catch radius, which makes him difficult to defend because even if he is covered he can still make a play.
36 - the number of catches by leading Titans WR Corey Davis. The Titans are weak at wide receiver. The Titans second leading receiver is RB Deion Lewis with 33 catches. Their third leading receiver has only 17 catches.
6 - the number of straight wins by the Pats after starting 1-2. After starting 0-2 on the road, the Pats have won their last two road games. The Pats also would like to make it seven straight wins before they head into the bye week.
0 - the number of catches by Chris Hogan Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. Look for the Pats to get Chris Hogan - more involved Sunday Night.
3 - the number of catches by Phillip Dorsett against the Green Bay Packers. Dorsett has seen his play time drastically reduced since the Pats acquired Josh Gordon.
Shaq Mason: Ted Karras played respectably Sunday Night in place of Shaq Mason, but it would be nice if Mason returned against the Titans. Mason is probably the Pats best interior offensive linemen and is a strong force in the running game. The Pats rewarded Mason with a big contract in training camp.
Malcom Brown: Brown was considered to be a disappointment to the point that the Pats did not pick up the fifth- year option on their 2015 first round pick. Brown played 47.3 percent of the snaps Sunday Night and has shown himself to be a strong run player. Adam Butler, who told Pats Maven that he is often the sacrificial lamb on the Pats third down plays because teams will double-block Butler, compliments Brown well.
Cordarrelle Patterson: Patterson showed that he can run the ball Sunday Night with 11 carries for 61 yards, but the Pats don't want Patterson to be the long-term answer at running back. The Pats hope that rookie RB Sony Michel, who has missed the past two games, can return. The Pats could give him the game off and make sure he is fully healthy after the bye week.
Player Spotlight: Julian Edelman has shown little signs of rust in the last five games after not playing for about 20 months and has rescued the Pats offense along with Josh Gordon. Edelman has 31 catches and teams have struggled to stop him since his return.
Game Plan: Offensively, the Pats face a strong defense that is aggressive. The Titans have Will Compton and Wesley Woodyard at inside linebacker with Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan at outside linebacker. Malcolm Buttler has struggled this season so look for the Pats to attack him. Also, the Pats receivers should be able to get open against Logan Ryan.
Defensively, the Patriots must stop the read option given the scrambling ability of Marcus Mariota. Mariota has the ability to hold onto the ball and make a play at the last minute. The Pats must also stop the running attack of Derrick Henry and Deion Lewis. The Pats are familiar with Lewis who is an elusive rusher given that he played three seasons in Foxboro. The two running backs have both been ineffective this season - averaging under four yards per carry. The Titans also lost of one of their best players early in the season to injury in tight end Delaine Walker and the offense has not completely recovered.
Quotes on Game: James White on the challenge of facing the Titans defense. "They’re good on every level – on the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary. They do what they do and they make plays. I think they’re the number one team in the red zone. They make it tough on you, they make you drive the football, they make you work for it. So you’ve got to be able to string together drives and protect the football, for sure," Brady said.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Titans LT Taylor Lewan vs. Pats DE Trey Flowers: The Titans are strong at left tackle with Lewan and Flowers could be matched up against him. If the two are matched up against each other, it should be exciting to watch because both players are excellent at their positions.
--Pats WR Josh Gordon v. Pats CB Logan Ryan: Gordon could have a big day against the undersized Ryan - especially given that Gordon has two 100-yard games in the last three games against the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.