FOXBORO — There was only one cliff in New England last night, and Tom Brady and the Patriots booted the Titans right off of it.
So much for the trash talk, from the Titans or otherwise, as the Patriots embarrassed their visitors at Gillette Stadium by a 35-14 count. As a result, the Pats advanced to their seventh consecutive AFC Championship Game and the 12th during Brady’s 16 full seasons as the starter. They’ll host either the Steelers or Jaguars next Sunday at 3:05 p.m.
Brady completed 35-of-53 for 337 yards and three touchdowns as he won his 26th playoff game, which is 10 clear of Joe Montana for the most all-time. Perennial postseason star Danny Amendola shed his restrictor plate and caught 11 passes for 112 yards, while Rob Gronkowski added six receptions for 81 yards and a score against Kevin Byard, who announced during the week the Titans would make Brady look like oft-criticized Jags quarterback Blake Bortles.
The Titans opened the night with a full-squad speech as they tap danced on the Patriots’ logo at midfield, but it was Dion Lewis who dizzied their defense to the tune of 15 carries for 62 yards and nine receptions for 79 yards. James White continued his postseason roll with 40 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
The Patriots also controlled the trenches, which was supposed to be one of the Titans’ advantages. Brady was hit four times on 53 drop-backs and wasn’t sacked, and the Patriots took down Marcus Mariota eight times and hit him on 10 occasions. Deatrich Wise had two of the Pats’ eight sacks, which set a postseason franchise record.
The Titans got off to a nice start when Corey Davis beat Malcolm Butler to the end zone for a 15-yard, left-handed grab and 7-0 lead in the first quarter, though they lost right tackle Jack Conklin to a knee injury during the drive.
The Pats solved their scoreless first-quarter woes by flipping to the opening page of the Titans’ scouting report. The visitors allowed more passing yards to running backs than anyone in the league this season, so Brady went to the well during their third possession. He completed all five passes for 67 yards, including the last four to running backs for 55 yards. White took a shovel pass around the left edge for a 5-yard touchdown to make it 7-7.
Stephon Gilmore cured the defense’s early third-down woes by breaking up Mariota’s sideline bid on the ensuing series, and Brady slammed on the gas pedal to give the Patriots their first lead….