The New England Patriots improved to 8-4 on the 2021 season with an impressive Week Twelve victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Quarterback Mac Jones threw for 310 yards with two touchdown passes. Wideout Jakobi Meyers had five catches for 98 yards receiving, while Kendrick Bourne added two touchdowns. Kicker Nick Folk made five of six field goal attempts, all en route to New England’s 36-13 victory over the Titans on Sunday in Foxboro, Massachusetts. For the Pats, it was their sixth-straight victory.
Though the spirits in New England’s locker room are as high as they have been all season, there are still plenty of lessons to be learned from the Pats performance on Sunday against the Titans.
Lesson One: The Patriots are one of the best teams in the AFC, even when they are not at their best.
While this lesson may seem like a backhanded compliment, it is actually the complete opposite. Despite the 36-13 final score, New England had its struggles on both sides of the ball. Still, the resilient Pats were able to overcome the miscues to put together an impressive win over one of the top teams in the conference. Winners of six straight, the Patriots continue to flex their muscle in the AFC. Sunday’s win over the Titans placed the Pats in the second slot in the AFC Playoff picture; pending the outcome of Sunday night’s matchup between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens. During their six-game winning streak, the Patriots have averaged 35 points per game 211 points scored), and allowed an average of 11 points per game (63 points allowed). The Patriots have allowed just 13 points in the second half during that stretch. As long as the Patriots combine great coaching with smart football on both sides of the ball, they will continue to remain among the AFC’s best teams heading into the 2021 postseason.
Lesson Two: J.C. Jackson continues to make the case, to ‘make bank.’
With each passing week, Jackson enhances his standing, not only as New England’s top option at the position, but also among the top cornerbacks in the league. With his fourth-quarter interception (his seventh of the season), Jackson now one pick behind Dallas' Trevon Diggs for the league-lead. He leads the NFL with 16 passes-defensed, He has routinely demonstrated an impressive instinct for finding the football, while keeping his targets in range and maintaining a visual on opposing quarterbacks. The 26-year-old has demonstrated the ability to be a formidable force at the position for many years to come. As a result, it is a near certainty that Jackson will command top-dollar on the open market. With the Patriots typically reluctant to sign cornerbacks to long-term lucrative deals, they may soon release that the price of allowing Jackson to leave may be more costly than a financially-hefty contract.
Lesson Three: Despite struggling to stop the run, the Pats defense can still make plays when needed
Though the Patriots defense held the Titans to 13 points on Sunday, Tennessee’s final scoring tally can be a bit deceiving. New England’s run defense allowed 270 rushing yards to the Titans, who were without All-Pro running back Derrick Henry. Tennessee averaged 6.9 yards per rush, with two 100-yard rushers, Dontrell Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman. Still, the Patriots defense forced four turnovers with one interception and three fumble recoveries. It marked the 22nd time in team history that they have recovered at least three fumbles and first since recovering three fumbles against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 27, 2020. It is the 17th time under head coach Bill Belichick that the Patriots have recovered three or more fumbles in a game. In true Belichickian fashion, the team continues to find ways to win. A big part of that has been New England’s defense finding ways to make the necessary plays at the right time.
Lesson Four: Mac Jones, Josh McDaniels have found New England’s offensive groove
Mac Jones once again put in a solid performance on Sunday, throwing for 300-plus yards, tossing two touchdowns and contributing 11 yards rushing. The rookie completed 71 percent of his passes, including 11-of-11 of his play-action throws for 169 passing yards. Overall, Jones continues to look more comfortable and confident running the Patriots offense each week. One of the main reasons why has been the play-calling and direction of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. New England has taken a more aggressive offensive approach, as of late. McDaniels’ schemes have been quite effective in breaking their opponents’ zone coverages. Whether it be deep shots to Jakobi Meyers or Kendrick Bourne, or the intermediate passing game with tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, the QB/OC combination has been impressive in utilizing their strengths. Coupled with the Pats proficiency with downfield blocking, the team has seemed to be pressing the right buttons at the right time. Despite some early hiccups in finding their comfort zone, the Patriots offense appears to be approaching their peak at the right time.