FOXBORO — There was not a warrior spirit about the Tennessee Titans last night. They were not willing to give up their life to beat Tom Brady. They weren’t even willing to give up a fingernail for that matter.
They were willing to give up though, which they did early in the second half of last night’s AFC divisional round playoff extravaganza when they allowed their quarterback, Marcus Mariota, to be sacked three times the first six times they handled the ball, punts excluded.
After the last of those sacks the Titans, trailing 21-7, were staring at third-and-31 from their own 2. Faced with such a dilemma, they handed off to running back Derrick Henry, who became a 247-pound white flag.
The Titans’ surrender became complete a few minutes later, when their defense turned to Jell-O and offered little resistance during a nine-play, 56-yard Patriots scoring drive. Tennessee had by then conceded to the obvious. It didn’t belong on the same field as the defending Super Bowl champions.
Realizing this, Patriots coach Bill Belichick decided this had become more like Pop Warner football than NFL football, so equal playing time was in order.
Facing their own third-and-1 situation at the Tennessee 6, Belichick turned to the bench and called on the kid who never gets in. He hollered out the name not of Rob Gronkowski or Dion Lewis or Tom “The Storm” Brady. Instead he handed the ball to seldom seen Brandon Bolden, who churned out a 4-yard gain and two plays later walked through a wide hole over right guard for a 2-yard touchdown that ended any semblance of a competitive game at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots had won their past six divisional round games by an average margin of victory of 16.3 points, having made a habit of beating up the palookas who show up after having won a wild card game. Last night, the margin was wider, a 21-point swing in a 35-14 victory, because the palookas from Tennessee never should have made the playoffs in the first place. If they are a playoff team, there are too many teams in the playoffs.
Next Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at the Big Razor should be a closer shave than last night’s non-competitive exercise, because the only thing that could have helped under-matched Tennessee keep it close was running time . . . which in the second half would have been appropriate.
After a long week of angst and denials about a possible rift between Brady, Belichick and The Boss (not Bruce Springsteen, Robert Kraft) about…