FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Two issues, amongst many, have been constant for the Patriots the previous decade: Tom Brady at quarterback and New England within the AFC championship recreation.
Brady will attempt to lead his crew to its seventh straight convention title recreation Saturday when it hosts the Tennessee Titans within the divisional spherical.
It has been a difficult week off the sector for the Patriots following studies of turmoil involving Brady, coach Invoice Belichick and crew proprietor Robert Kraft. However Brady says he is by no means doubted his crew’s means to compartmentalize potential distractions.
“I feel we’ve a job to do and we all know what our job is and that is to exit and play soccer at a excessive degree and play nicely,” he stated. “Nothing actually ought to get in the best way of that.”
Tennessee hasn’t been to a convention championship recreation for the reason that 2002 season, however has been invigorated coming off its first playoff win in 14 years.
The Titans enter as 13-point underdog, however linebacker Derrick Morgan stated it is a position they fortunately embrace .
“No one respects us. No one actually expects so much from us. That is effective,” he stated. “We have not been a really profitable crew within the final 10 years. So it is simple for folks to miss us. So we have to maintain enterprise and begin successful video games like this to get the respect that we need.”
To get it, they’re going to should cease a quarterback that has been nearly unbeatable on this spherical of the postseason.
Brady is 11-2 in 13 divisional-round video games since 2002 , passing for three,700 yards and 28 touchdowns.
He additionally has a 6-1 profession document in opposition to the Titans with 13 touchdowns and only one interception.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was principally unflappable in main his crew again from an 18-point halftime deficit to beat Kansas Metropolis – the biggest comeback on highway in Tremendous Bowl period.
However since 2001, quarterbacks making their first or second profession playoff begin are Zero-7 in opposition to New England.
“When it comes right down to it, it is all about us,” Mariota stated. “I feel that is sort of been the mindset by this complete season. Ups and downs come and go, you simply need to attempt to benefit from this chance.”
Some issues to observe on Saturday’:
MOVING ON UP: It will likely be Invoice Belichick’s 37th profession playoff recreation as a head coach, breaking a tie with Tom Landry and Don Shula for probably the most in NFL historical past.
HEISMAN BROTHERS: Mariota, the 2014 Heisman winner, and Derrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman winner, mixed to show in the very best speeding efficiency in franchise historical past within the wild-card spherical. Henry ran for a career-high 156 yards, and Mariota added 46 yards. Henry will likely be beginning his third straight recreation with DeMarco Murray already out (proper knee).
PRESSURE: The Titans ranked fifth within the league with 43 sacks through the season and added 4 extra in opposition to the Chiefs final week. Three-time Professional Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey had six from his inside spot, whereas Morgan led the Titans with 7 ½ sacks. Linebackers Brian Orakpo (seven) and Wesley Woodyard (5) give the Titans quite a lot of choices to assault Brady, not counting backup linebacker Erik Walden (4).
EXPERIENCE GAP: New England has 41 gamers with postseason expertise, most of 2017 playoff groups. Fourteen Patriots gamers have performed not less than 10 playoff video games. That is extra such gamers than 11 different playoff groups mixed (13). By comparability, earlier than the beginning of this postseason the Titans had 18 gamers who had appeared in a playoff recreation.
BELICHICK and LEBEAU: There aren’t too many present NFL coaches which were across the recreation longer than Belichick and Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau .
LeBeau has an NFL-record 45 consecutive seasons as a coach, with Belichick at 43. But, with Belichick as head coach, he and LeBeau have confronted off within the playoffs solely as soon as: the 2004 AFC championship recreation that New England received in Pittsburgh, 41-27.
The respect between the 2 is mutual.
“Not very many coaches have the document coach Belichick’s gotten. Actually he is most likely closing in on the very best ever,” LeBeau stated.
Mentioned Belichick: “Coach LeBeau is nearly as good as there’s, nearly as good a defensive coach as there’s.”