Three thoughts off New England’s 35–14 win against Tennessee on Saturday night...
1. The mostly anonymous Titans defense played down to their description. Listen, it’s nearly impossible to beat the Patriots in January in Foxboro. No one expected Tennessee to win this game, and Vegas was clearly humbled by its 13.5-point line. But the Titans’ defense has to be better than allowing the Patriots to go 5-for-5 in the red zone and 11-for-16 on third downs, and bringing Tom Brady down zero times. Brady filleted a Tennessee secondary that boasts nothing past Kevin Byard at safety and a young Adoree’ Jackson at corner. The Titans will have to upgrade its 25th-ranked passing defense this offseason after Brady easily hung 337 passing yards on them.
2. In case you haven’t heard, there’s a rather large segment of the NFL-watching population who believes that all of the calls go New England’s way. Let us recall the Austin Seferian-Jenkins non-touchdown in Week 6 when the Patriots beat the Jets by a touchdown. Then, of course, came the non-touchdown by Jesse James in the best regular-season game of the year against the Steelers.
On Saturday night, Eric Decker apparently pushed off on a crucial third-down conversion that forced Tennessee to punt with the game tied at seven early in the second quarter. New England scored six plays later. On the next Patriots’ possession, the Titans stopped them on third down and forced a punt. But the officials called a highly questionable neutral zone infraction on the visitors when it seemed to be a false start (or no call at best) on New England. The Patriots would score on that drive, too. Oh, and let’s not forget about the longest second in NFL history at the end of the first half that ultimately led to a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
The notion that the league’s officials give all the calls to the Patriots is, naturally, foolish. Officiating crews aren’t getting notifications from New York on split-second flag-throwings. For the long-term health of the league, parity in the postseason would do more to help the NFL. Remember, this is the same league that suspended the face of the franchise for playing with slightly deflated footballs. Would it really want to help the Patriots beat the underdog Titans at home?
3. Tony Romo has become the best play-by-play guy in football. From predicting touchdown throws to understanding hand signals, Romo has been fantastic for CBS viewers. But I took issue with his pregame and end-of-game comments regarding ESPN’s report last week involving friction in the franchise: “If they win the game today,” Romo said of the controversy in and around the article, “it goes away tomorrow.”
Well … not really. Questions will continue to swirl around the Brady-Belichick-Kraft relationship this week as the Pats prepare to host the Steelers or Jaguars. The controversy certainly won’t go away in the two-week Super Bowl media frenzy should the Patriots advance again. Very clearly there are cracks in the relationship, which should be natural after nearly two decades together, and those fissures will be probed as long as the Patriots continue this postseason.