By Karen Christensen //@ksc51
Patriots 35 – Titans 14
Hopes were high for the Tennessee Titans. They were relishing the “underdog” role against the number one seed New England Patriots and were confident after getting an upset victory last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Titans players were quoted in the press saying “it’s our time”. They were confident in their quarterback, Marcus Mariota, insinuating that the Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady might be past his prime and due for a fall from the NFL throne.
At the beginning of the game, it looked like the Titans had a good chance to beat the Patriots; the Titans were first to score late in the first quarter when Mariota threw a 15-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Corey Davis for a touchdown. It was Davis’ first NFL touchdown, a one-handed catch that got the Titans on the board and it felt like a breakthrough for the Titans first-round draft pick. Finally, during a playoff game, Davis made a big play. The glee didn’t last for long as the Patriots were able to score on their next possession and even the score.
By the end of the second half, the Patriots had continued to dominate the game, the score was 21-7 in the Pats favor, and angry Titan fans were complaining about perceived bad officiating calls that favored the Patriots. Most notably, the refs called a false start on New England but then changed the call to penalize the Titans for a neutral zone infraction against the Titans. Thus the Patriots kept the ball and were able to start another drive which led to another touchdown for New England. Per writer Paul Kurharsky, this was the referee’s explanation on the reversal of the original call:
— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) January 14, 2018
The referees also appeared to ignore Titans’ linebacker Brian Orakpo being held during most of the game. That was disheartening. The refs also missed a facemask penalty call against the Patriots when running back Derrick Henry was on a fourth down run.
The Titans had a total of 10 penalty calls against them during this game, during the entire season the Titans had the second fewest penalty calls against them. Sportscaster Tony Romo was unafraid to mention questionable officiating, but Titans head coach Mike Mularkey stated that even though he did not agree with some of the penalty calls, the team had to play better.
Mariota was sacked five times during the game, right tackle Jack Conklin suffered a torn left ACL injury early in the game. Conklin’s absence was a big factor in the Titan’s O-line having difficulty protecting Mariota. Mariota himself had a quad injury during the first quarter, but he did stay in the game until the end. Rookie tight end Jonnu Smith also had an MCL injury.
Would the Titans have been able to achieve a victory if the referees had a perfect game without any mistakes or missed penalties against the home team? Probably not. The New England Patriots are a well-oiled machine with great coaches and great play calling. QB Tom Brady is not an aging grandpa. He is an elite athlete with a good team around him. It would have been a much better game if there was some less obvious bias against the opposing team.
The Titans were able to score again at the end of the fourth quarter when Mariota again connected with wide receiver Corey Davis for the final score of the game. The fact that our first draft pick is finally able to make TD plays is a small glimmer of hope for next season. But the ending of this season came two games too soon.
Talk Titans with Karen on Twitter @ksc47