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The Patriots take on the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium (8:15 p.m.; CBS), with a berth in the AFC Championship Game at stake. Brady's uncharacteristic unevenness down the stretch, coupled with the revelation tucked in an ESPN blockbuster on tensions within the Patriots that his own coaches have seen "slippage" in Brady this season, has prompted the latest round of questions about whether age has finally started to leech Brady's brilliance. Marcus Mariota has thrown more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13), which in this day and age is nearly unheard of.
He also is 6-0 against Mike Mularkey-coached teams.
In a joint statement last week, all three men brushed aside any insinuation of strife at the top of one of the NFL's jewel franchises. Unfortunately, Brady is convinced that he was what it takes to play for another 5 years.
"We do what we always do", he said.
"We've played quarterbacks like this where we do want to try to keep him in the pocket, but I think that's just the beginning part of it", McCourty added. Will it be Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Kenny Britt or Phillip Dorsett?
"He's the ultimate professional and he (makes) his teammates better and he demands a lot", Amendola said.
When he received a chance to shine in the absence of DeMarco Murray (knee), former Alabama running back Derrick Henry showed fans the model he displayed throughout the 2015 season with the Crimson Tide - as he collected 28 touchdowns.
The Titans' running game sputtered throughout much of the 2017 season, but they may have found a recipe for success in Saturday's win over the Chiefs.
We know the Patriots will be ready to face the Titans.
"It's a playoff game, so it's not like it's the preseason where I can go out there, "Oh, it's Brady, ' and I'm chillin", Byard said Tuesday. Malcolm Mitchell is unlikely to suit up for the Pats for the playoffs, so one of the receivers in the second or third tier of the Pats depth chart is going to have to come up big. So I don't really care if it was Joe Montana. You never know when Belichick, being the mage that he is, will strike. One of the biggest keys for the Titans will center on how well they perform in the red zone, where the Titans ranked 25th in the regular season. Look for him to have a big game and play well if he is completely healthy.
To pull an upset, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota must be at his best.
The contrast in quarterbacks will be stark. The Pats were 20 in the National Football League this season in rush defense and will have to tighten things up Saturday night if they want to advance to their seventh straight AFC Championship game. "I've already commented at length about that situation", Belichick said. Their performances coupled with the improvement of 21-year-old center Myles Turner, the steady play of Thaddeus Young and Stephenson's energy have given the Pacers a solid foundation. Now you put everything that you have into this one-game season.
Now at Saint Thomas Sports Park, the people who will have a hand in the outcome are the Titans players and coaches.
Saturday night's victor will advance to the AFC championship contest on January 21, when it will play the victor of Sunday's Jacksonville Jaguars-Pittsburgh Steelers game for a spot in Super Bowl LII.
If the Eagles or Patriots lose Saturday, it will mark the second consecutive year that a No.1 seed has lost their first playoff game. Still, let's not get too ahead of ourselves and let's focus on Tennessee.
Brady isn't taking anything for granted. And if you're a lover of the original sense of football, field position is monstrous. "But when he escapes outside the pocket and he has the ability to run and throw, you honestly really don't have a shot to stop him". So, as close as we are, that's not going to change, and he's going to compete and be the same way.