I mean, guys…This is absurd right? Someone’s playing a joke on us? That has to be the case, because there is no way this weekend shook out the way it did just by chance. The New England Patriots just cruised to their 7th STRAIGHT AFC Championship game, and the teams that remain in the playoffs are the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. To clarify, those teams are quarterbacked by Case Keenum, Nick Foles, and Blake Bortles.
Listen. I’ve never been the type of guy to overlook any opponent, and I’m not going to start now, but it’s hard not to feel pretty tingly looking at the remaining competition. For the time being, let’s take a look at last Saturday afternoon and discuss.
BEST WEEK EVER
I wanted to say Brady. I really did. 35 of 53 for 337 yards, 3 tuddies and zero pics. What a god damn game for Tommy boy. He was throwing the ball on a dime often in that game and it was so relieving to see. Goes to show how important that first round bye is. The screens were perfect, the seam routes were precise, and the long balls were present. In the beginning of the third quarter the offense had a 3rd and 13. Brady was under pressure, kept his cool and throw a BEAUTIFUL chip shot that fell right into a basket in James White’s hands that he couldn’t hold onto. Despite the drop, those are the types of plays you see Tom make and know that he’s feeling it. We saw a similar play at the beginning of the 4th quarter. 3rd and 10, Brady gets flushed out of the pocket to the right and looks back across his body to throw a lob over the defender’s head to find Amendola for the first. Simply beautiful. 3rd down was an art form the offense at 64% efficiency. As well as Tom, we saw DIDI and Gronk continuing their run of dominance, as well as the lovely return of playoff Dola. Golf claps all around for the offense.
Despite that RANT. Best week ever has to go to the defense. The patriots have a history of poor defensive performances in the playoffs. They’ve struggled at numerous times this season, and have come under criticism from yours truly more than once. Saturday afternoon they had a ferocity that we haven’t seen all year. In these eyes, Stephon Gilmore had his first 65 million dollar game of the season. 4 targets, 0 completions, and 1 pass defended. Gilmore shut down his side of the field which was a huge part in stifling the passing game.
On the other side of the offense, Derek Henry was made more or less invisible. 28 yards on the entire game. I went into this week thinking that shutting him down was going to be a grand task. The Pats front 7 made it look like they were defending Lawrence Maroney. (Never forget).
The best part of this defensive effort was the pressure on the QB. A season high 8 sacks from 6 different players is enough highlight material to go through an entire tissue box. These men were absolute animals in this game. Swarming the pocket, penetrating, and creating pressure. Mariota didn’t look comfortable once all game. This pressure played a huge part into 3rd down efficiency holding the Titans to 5 of 15 at 33%. This was the type of game changing effort that leads you to a super bowl.
WORST WEEK EVER
Despite one of the best defensive performances all season, worst week ever goes yet again to Malcolm Butler. The only soft spot on an otherwise delicious game. Butler got abused all game, starting on the opening drive for the Titans. Credit where credit is due, Corey Davis is a solid wideout. He was injured all season which means his numbers make him look like a nobody, but this is far from the case. That is no excuse, as Malcolm Butler has the advantage of ya know…being a professional, and ya know…preparing for the game.
Malcolm got turned Kylo Ren style on the first touchdown. Davis put on a double move that left Malcolm in the dust. He did make a circus, one handed catch, but that doesn’t change the fact that Malcolm was beat. Due to incredible pressure on the QB, Mariota wasn’t even able to get that many balls out to his top receivers. Despite that, Davis still had 5 catches for 63 yards and 2 touchdowns against Butler. On the Titans last TD drive, Mariota targeted Butler again and again with the likes of Davis and Matthews. Malcolm saw the drive end with him yet again getting beat to the sideline. Luckily it was a meaningless score and the game was already over, but we are going to need a lot better from him moving forward. At the end of the day, I’ll sacrifice a bad Malcolm game if it means a dominant win and an otherwise pristine defensive performance. That said…clean it up Malcolm.