8 quick-hit takeaways from the Patriots’ outstanding rout of Titans

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  • New England Patriots
    New England Patriots
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  • Tennessee Titans
    Tennessee Titans
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  • Mac Jones
    Mac Jones
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  • Jakobi Meyers
    Jakobi Meyers
    American football player

The New England Patriots did what they seem to do every week — at least during their six-game win streak. The Patriots ground away at the Tennessee Titans with a dogged commitment to running the ball and endless trust in the defense to make big plays. New England won, 36-13.

There were flashes of big plays from quarterback Mac Jones and receivers Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers — a refreshing twist for New England. But the defense was outstanding, as usual, with two takeaways and two turnovers on downs. The rushing attack struggled at the start, but ended up finding its stride in the fourth quarter when it helped chew the clock and build a massive lead.

It felt close at first. And then it turned into an absolute route. That’s how the Patriots roll teams, with a mind-numbingly efficient approach, forcing mistakes and making none. Here are our takeaways from the game.

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Josh McDaniels and Mac Jones did a wonderful job finding holes in the Titans secondary in the first half

During the first half, the Patriots looked like they had a handful of plays designed to generate a handful of chunk plays. Jones was attacking the intermediate and deep areas of the field with surprising efficiency.

One example: tight end Jonnu Smith picked up up 19 yards on an easy pass from Jones over the middle. McDaniels simply did a good job of calling plays that created open receivers.

There were other plays, where McDaniels set up a receiver on a crosser, only to have that receiver run to the sideline, where they could get a block from a receiver set up on the outside. That helped generate extra yards after the catch. The best example came on a pass to Jakobi Meyers, who got first down while running around a stout block from Nelson Agholor.

The good play-calling continued throughout the game, but Jones’ execution of it waxed and waned. There were a few examples of Jones looking sloppy, most noticeably on a misfire to Hunter Henry, who appeared open enough for an easy touchdown during the second quarter.

Then there was Jones’ deep ball to Jakobi Meyers, a remarkable play from the receiver — but not exactly the best ball placement from the quarterback. Safety Kevin Byard completely misread the ball, and that set up Meyers for the catch. So overall, it felt like McDaniels was more to credit for the Patriots’ successes in the passing game on Sunday.

The Patriots' run defense was alarmingly ineffective

New England found a way to get a happy result out of a 31-yard gain from Titans running back D’Onta Foreman. Cornerback J.C. Jackson punched out the football to save the Patriots from an embarrassing play. It was the Titans’ second rush of 30+ yards. That kind of flash play from Jackson may have erased Foreman’s long rush, but it didn’t eliminate the Titans’ rushing attack altogether. Tennessee simply overpowered the Patriots with 39 carries for 270 yards and a touchdown.

Kendrick Bourne is an absolute wizard

The Patriots receiver has come out of nowhere to turn into a big play receiver this year. The advanced analytics indicated he could be special, even with limited work in San Francisco for the last few years. But he has stunned since joining the Patriots on a three-year, $15 million this offseason.

His 41-yard touchdown pass, for example, simply made no sense.

How did he stay in-bounds?

The Patriots benefitted enormously from the Titans poor play on special teams

Bullock missed his first two kicks, a point-after attempt and a 44-yard field goal attempt. Had Hilliard not burst off his 68-yarder, the Titans would have put together a paltry 6-point first half.

The Titans also committed a holding penalty on the opening kickoff of the first half and a facemask penalty in the second half. To make things worse, Tennessee had an illegal shift in the first half on a punt. It was generally an abysmal performance on special teams.

Michael Onwenu got some run at left guard

It didn’t look like Ted Karras got hurt. It just looked like the Patriots decided to turn to Onwenu after Karras and the offensive line lacked luster in the first half. Keep an eye out for Onwenu, one of the highest-graded players on the Patriots on Pro Football Focus. He may be back for the foreseeable future.

Myles Bryant is starting to show as a weak spot in the Patriots secondary

New England needed a cornerback to step up after they traded away Stephon Gilmore and lost Jonathan Jones for the season with an injury. Bryant seemed to be that guy, bringing a physical presence to the secondary. He was, however, the player the Titans decided to target, which made sense because he struggled in Week 11 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Bryant allowed a handful of play, including a 24-yard pickup to receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.

J.C. Jackson is not a weak spot. Not in the least. (Matt Judon -- also still really good.)

The cornerback remains one of the best players. He managed to log a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone after Devin McCourty batted a ball into the air. It was on fourth down, but Jackson was able to take a knee — so the interception actually helped the Patriots with field position. That was Jackson’s second takeaway of the game with a forced fumble.

Matt Judon, meanwhile, made his presence known on the opening drive with a sack. He committed a pair of penalties (neutral zone infraction, roughing the passer) but finished with six tackles and the sack.

The Patriots need the Ravens to lose on SNF to take No. 1 spot in the AFC

New England may not take the No. 1 spot in the AFC, but they have retained the top spot in the AFC East with two matchups against the Buffalo Bills in the next three weeks. New England may end up at the top of the AFC soon — and they have a chance to build a big lead (or lose a big lead) in their division.

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