NFL Playoffs: All Eyes On Marcus Mariota vs New England Patriots

Donn Jones AP

Donn Jones AP

An explosive ESPN article from last week suggests that there has been a rift between superstar quarterback Tom Brady, coach Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft. The Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski missed the 53-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the half four plays later, but the tone had been set. The Titans have 18. New England isn't great against the run though. The Patriots are 25-9 in the postseason under Belichick.

Tennessee is also a team that's built to win in the playoffs. By the end of the game, it seemed insane to remember that the Titans once led in the game.

The Patriots used that positive field position to stage their fourth touchdown drive of the night, and Trey Flowers wrecked the ensuing Titans possession when he sacked Mariota for a 7-yard loss on the very first play.

Brady turned in a near-flawless performance in Saturday's 35-14 win over the Titans in the divisional-round matchup, as he picked Tennessee's defense apart during the majority of the game. This week Murray has not practiced and is already ruled out for what should be the last game of the Titans season. That is a team that is clicking at the right time, no?

But should we dismiss Tennessee so quickly?

The Titans scored first as Marcus Mariota threw a ideal pass to Corey Davis, who made an incredible one-handed diving catch in the end zone to give the Titans a 7-0 lead with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter.

As for what's ahead, Brady explained how even though the Patriots have made a habit of advancing to this point, their urgency remains high. Kansas City, which scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for a 42-27 victory. This week it's more. The Titans have Marcus Mariota and his one career playoff win, a 22-21 thriller at Kansas City. Outside of the Steelers, the Eagles, Vikings and Saints are the most balanced teams left in the playoffs.

Titans Coach Mike Mularkey said that Mariota was hampered when he tweaked a quadriceps muscle.

"You don't play to come and lose in the divisional playoff", Mariota said. "It's a gradual process".

8 - Interceptions by Byard, tying him for the National Football League lead.

Romo says out loud what's likely going through Tom Brady's head in the moment (and what likely was going through Romo's head in similar situations when he was with the Cowboys). "We feel like we've had to go out and earn it. I think he saw that, and obviously he's a quick, fast learner". It's been that way for a long time.

"Whether you are pressuring or whether you are going coverage, if he knows where you are going, then he is going to be pretty effective", LeBeau said.

"I don't think you take it for granted". "That's where you go prove it". We show up to work and try to do the best we can do. "I'm not really looking at it like that".

Special teamer Matthew Slater, another of the Patriots' key locker room leaders, downplayed the huge experience advantage his team has, parroting what Belichick has told his players. "We know we have to be better than we were last week, executing plays that are called and just practicing on being efficient on every drive that we have". While the regular season may have been disappointing, Orapko got 1.5 sacks in the first game of the postseason versus the Chiefs.

This week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Which member of the Titans offense will be toughest for the Patriots defense to deal with?

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