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Titans-Patriots: Live Updates, Analysis

A short-handed Tennessee offense has to deal with one of the top defenses in the NFL this season.

Taylor Lewan sees Sunday’s game between the Tennessee Titans (8-3) and New England Patriots (7-4) as a matter of life and death.

Not for everyone involved. Just for him and the four players who line up directly to his right.

“They have linebackers that run downhill and try to really end offensive linemen’s lives,” the Titans left tackle said. “So, we’ve got our work cut out for us and a big game coming up.”

New England leads the NFL in scoring defense, is third in yards allowed per game and is in the top 10 in rushing yards (sixth) and passing yards (ninth) allowed per game. That defense also leads the NFL with 18 interceptions and is second with 58 passes defensed.

The Titans have faced two other teams this season that currently rank among the top five in scoring and total defense – with mixed results. They opened the season with a disastrous performance against Arizona (fourth and fifth, respectively) and produced an exemplary performance in Week 6 against Buffalo (second and first, respectively). Both of those games were at Nissan Stadium.

This time, though, they will be without some of their best players on offense. Running back Derrick Henry will miss his fourth straight game with a broken foot, and three of their top four receivers – wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones, running back Jeremy McNichols – will be sidelined as well.

(The Patriots) are playing outstanding,” Lewan said of New England’s defense. “They have a lot of different personnel (groups), a lot of fronts, a lot of guys that you have to be aware of at certain positions. They have a lot of talent.”

On to kickoff.

FIRST QUARTER

New England won the coin toss and deferred its option to the second half.

Titans get the ball first. Dontrell Hilliard is the return man, but Nick Dzubnar is called for holding the 20-yard return. It’s first down at the Tennessee 11.

(13:29) It’s three-and-out for the Titans offense as Matt Judon beats David Quessenberry for a sack on third-and-3. The possession included an 8-yard completion to tight end Geoff Swaim, but the net was a loss of three yards.

Swaim’s reception was his 20th of the season. That is the second time in his career he has had at least that many.

(12:34) A 59-yard punt by Brett Kern – with no return – is negated by two penalties, illegal formation and illegal motion (the latter was accepted). The second punt went 47 yards, and th Patriots got a 15-yard return. All told, the penalty cost Tennessee 32 yards.

New England’s first drive starts at the Titans’ 37. 

(7:42) Six runs and three passes, including a 9-yard run by tight end Jonnu Smith, and the Patriots are in the end zone. Kendrick Bourne capped the possession with a 4-yard reception on third-and-goal. Scoring drive: 9 plays, 37 yards, 4:46. NEW ENGLAND 7, TENNESSEE 0

Tennessee is now 13-19 on fourth down this season. That is a Titans-era (1999-present) record for conversions. The offense was 12-22 in 2009 and 12-27 in 2009. 

(0:00) End of the first quarter. The Titans will start the second quarter with a second-and-goal from the 2, thanks to a drive that has featured D’Onta Foreman (six rushes, 20 yards) and Cody Hollister (2 receptions, 22 yards).

Tennessee outgained New England 66-32 in the quarter and had the ball for 10:14.

That was the sixth time this season the Titans were shut out in the first quarter and the fifth straight game they failed to score a touchdown in the first 15 minutes.

SECOND QUARTER

(14:29) Nick Westbrook-Ikhine scores on a 1-yard reception on third-and-goal – but only after Mike Vrabel challenged the on-field ruling that the receiver was down short of the goal line. But the PAT is no good when Randy Bullock’s kick hits the right upright. Scoring drive: 14 plays, 74 yards, 8:06. NEW ENGLAND 7, TENNESSEE 6

Vrabel is now 4-4 on replay challenges this season. The others were against Indianapolis (one in each meeting) and Kansas City. 

(9:58) This time, Tennessee’s defense holds its ground in the red zone as Mac Jones throws incomplete on third-and-goal from the 4 (he was 4-4 for 71 yards on the drive prior to the miss).

(9:53) New England attempts a 22-yard field goal, and it is good. Scoring drive: 8 plays, 75 yards, 4:38. NEW ENGLAND 10, TENNESSEE 6

In 29 red zone possessions this season, Titans opponents have scored 18 touchdowns with nine field goals and came up empty twice.

(9:09) Judon is called for roughing the passer, and instead of 3-and-4 from the Tennessee 34, it is first-and-10 at the 49.

(6:11) Ryan Tannehill throws his first incompletion of the day when he airmails an open Chester Rogers. He was 8-8 for 48 yards with completions to seven different receivers.

(6:05) Tennessee settles for a 44-yard field goal attempt, and Bullock’s kick hits the right upright. That’s two kicks (one PAT one field goal) off the right upright and no points for Bullock.

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(5:01) After a holding penalty makes it first-and-20 from the 36, Mac Jones connects with Jakobi Meyers for 38 yards as safety Kevin Byard took a bad angle to try to break up the pass. It is first down at the Tennessee 26.

Monty Rice is injured on the play, which is bad news for the Titans. They started the game without their top two players at that position, Rashaan Evans and David Long. Both are out with injuries.

Dylan Cole steps in while the medical staff takes a closer look at Rice. 

(3:08) Tennessee's defense gives up just seven yards in the next three plays and forces a 37-yard field goal attempt by New England’s Nick Folk. It’s good. Scoring drive: 6 plays, 47 yards, 2:57. NEW ENGLAND 13, TENNESSEE 6

The bad news: New England has scored on every offensive possession thus far. The good news: The Titans have held the Patriots two two field goals and one touchdown.

Monty Rice has been ruled out for the remainder of the game with an ankle injury.

(2:29) It takes two plays for Tennessee to cross midfield, the second of which was a 24-yard reception by Westbrook-Ikhine on a flea-flicker.

(1:57) Two plays later, Dontrell Hilliard fumbles and the Patriots recover. New England has a chance to add to its lead before halftime – and it gets the ball to start the second half. 

(1:02) The Titans get a break when Mac Jones overthrows tight end Hunter Henry for what would have been a 26-yard touchdown pass on third down. The Patriots settle for another field goal attempt, this one from 44 yards – and it is good. Scoring drive: 6 plays, 42 yards, 0:53. NEW ENGLAND 16, TENNESSEE 7

(0:48) Dontrell Hillard takes a draw on third-and-3 and goes 68 yards for a touchdown. It comes one play after Ryan Tannehill nearly threw an interception. Scoring drive: 3 plays, 75 yards, 0:21. NEW ENGLAND 16, TENNESSEE 13

Hilliard never has had more than 49 rushing yards in a season or a run longer than 19 yards – until now.

(0:07) The Patriots manage to get into range for one more field goal attempt before the end of the half. This one is from 53 yards – and it misses to the right.

New England outgained the Titans 229-214 in the half. Hilliard has 108 rushing yards on eight carries. The Patriots have 23 rushing yards on nine carries. Tannehill is 10-13 for 79 yards and a TD (117.1 passer rating). Jones is 15-21 for 206 yards and a TD (118.4 passer rating).

THIRD QUARTER

(11:16) Does this sound familiar? New England attempts a field goal. This one is from 28 yards – and it is good. Scoring drive: 8 plays, 39 yards, 3:47. NEW ENGLAND 19, TENNESSEE 13

That is four red zone possessions for the Patriots and one touchdown.

(10:34) And now it is D’Onta Foreman with a long run – 34 yards – and a fumble. The Patriots recover and take possession at their own 37.

The Titans now have 179 rushing yards. That is their fourth-highest total of the season (212 at Seattle, 184 at Jacksonville, 180 vs. Indianapolis). 

(8:34) Tennessee’s defense finally forces a punt as Kevin Byard sacks Jones for a loss of 11 on third-and-8 from the New England 41.

That is Byard's fourth career sack, and his first since Dec. 16, 2018 -- 50 games ago (including the playoffs). 

(6:59) The Titans offense goes three-and-out and has to punt.

(5:12) New England finally gets back to the end zone. It’s Bourne once again, this time with a 41-yard catch-and-run on which the Titans missed multiple opportunities to get him down or out of bounds. Scoring drive: 4 plays, 56 yards, 1:43. NEW ENGLAND 26, TENNESSEE 13

(0:00) End of the quarter. Tennessee is on the move with a first down at the New England 12. The current drive includes 20 rushing yards by Foreman (three carries), 17 rushing yards by Hilliard (three carries) and a 7-yard scramble by Tannehill on third-and-1. 

FOURTH QUARTER

(12:42) On fourth-and-goal from the 2, Tannehill’s pass for Hollister is tipped and intercepted in the end zone. Tennessee had the ball for 14 plays and 8:02 (it was first-and-goal from the 5) but came away with no points. 

(8:18) After New England’s longest run of the game (19 yards by Rhamondre Stevenson), cornerback Jackrabbit Jenkins is down on the field and needs attention from the trainers. 

(6:14) The Patriots faced a third-and-21 after Naquan Jones and Derick Roberson combined for a sack. They only gained seven on third down and settled for another field goal attempt. Nick Folk is good from 52 yards and ties a New England single-season record with six of 50-plus this season. He is 5-6 on field goal tries today with makes from 22, 37, 44, 28 and 52 yards, respectively. Scoring drive: 10 plays, 46 yards, 5:50. NEW ENGLAND 29, TENNESSEE 13

(4:45) That didn’t take long. On the second play after the change of possession, Damien Harris goes 14 yards for the touchdown. Scoring drive: 2 plays, 21 yards, 0:48. NEW ENGLAND 36, TENNESSEE 13

(4:38) The Titans waive the white flag. Kevin Hogan is in at quarterback. 

(3:20) A 12-yard run by Foreman gives the Titans two 100-yard rushers on the day. Foreman has 100 yards on 18 carries, and Hilliard has 131 yards on 12 carries.