Vrabel’s Titans rout New England 34-10, snap Pats’ streaks
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tom Brady added another big chunk of NFL history to his resume.
The Tennessee Titans made sure the Patriots quarterback didn’t finish his 300th game by hitting him over and over again.
The Titans sacked Brady three times and hit him six more times as they beat New England 34-10 Sunday, snapping a seven-game skid against the Patriots in Mike Vrabel’s first game as head coach against the team he helped win three Super Bowls.
It was the most sacks allowed in a game this season by the Patriots (7-3), and coach Bill Belichick pulled Brady for Brian Hoyer midway through the fourth quarter.
“You got to make Tom blink, and if you make him blink and have to go to a second read you got a chance,” Vrabel said of his former teammate. “But if you let him rip it to the first guy he looks at, it’s going to be a long day.”
Asked if he thought Brady was effective, Belichick said to ask Brady.
“It was just a bad day for all of us,” Brady said.
Only Brett Favre (326) has played in more games, both regular season and postseason, as a quarterback than Brady. The three-time NFL MVP also needed only three touchdown passes to tie Peyton Manning (579) for the NFL record for most TD passes all time for both the regular season and postseason.
Brady left having thrown for 254 yards and no TD passes. The Titans outgained the Patriots 385-284, holding New England to just 40 yards rushing. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who had 1½ sacks, said that allowed them to get after Brady.
“Coach Vrabel said make them pay for everything,” Woodyard said. “Tackle him, hit him and make him feel it.”
Marcus Mariota capped each of the first two drives with TD passes, and Derrick Henry ran for a pair of TDs. Ryan Succop also added two field goals as the Titans (5-4) scored a season high in points after jumping out to a 17-3 lead in the first quarter. They now have beaten both of last season’s Super Bowl teams in Nashville.
The loss snaps a six-game winning streak going into New England’s bye. The Patriots, who routed the Titans 35-14 in January, also lost to Tennessee for the first time since Dec. 16, 2002.
Darius Jennings opened the game with a 58-yard kickoff return, and Mariota capped the drive with a 4-yard TD pass to Jonnu Smith. The Titans never trailed again.
The Titans came in with the NFL’s stingiest scoring defense and also leading the league in fewest touchdowns allowed in the red zone. They held the Patriots to a pair of 52-yard field-goal attempts by Stephen Gostkowski, who missed his second wide left. James Develin scored on a 1-yard TD run early in the second, which pulled New England within 17-10.
Brady looked ready to pull off another amazing comeback, driving the Pats to the Titans 37. The Titans stopped Brady a yard shy of the first down after catching a pass from Julian Edelman. A false start followed, then Logan Ryan, a former New England cornerback, broke up a Brady pass to Edelman to turn the ball over.
On the very next play, Vrabel called his own trick play with Jennings throwing to a wide-open Mariota for a 21-yard gain.
Hoyer replaced Brady on the next drive.
Tennessee fired coach Mike Mularkey after the January playoff loss and hired Vrabel to try to recreate the Patriots’ winning ways with the Titans. Vrabel hired Dean Pees, a former Patriots linebackers coach and defensive coordinator, as his defensive coordinator. General manager Jon Robinson, who started in New England, signed cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back Dion Lewis in free agency.
“That’s what happens when you go cheap,” Lewis said. “You get your (expletive) kicked.”
RARE BRADY CATCH
Brady’s catch was just the third of his career and first since Dec. 6, 2015, when he caught a 36-yarder from Danny Amendola against Philadelphia. At 41, Brady became the oldest player with a catch since Jerry Rice had 30 at the age of 42. Brady slipped at the end and said he didn’t know what happened.
“It was ‘fish out of water,’” Brady said.
Mariota also has three receptions, including catching his own pass in the playoffs last January. Vrabel said Mariota got up faster than Brady did. Mariota said he had one thought on his reception: “Just catch it.”
Patriots left tackle Trent Brown missed the final drive of the first half and was announced as questionable to return because of illness. LaAdrian Waddle replaced him for that series, but Brown returned for the first start of the third quarter. Brown left later in the third quarter with an injured back. Edelman hurt an ankle and didn’t return. Tight end Dwayne Allen also hurt a knee in the third quarter.
Titans running back David Fluellen picked up 16 yards on back-to-back runs, then went down untouched on the next play with a knee injury.
Patriots: Bye, then visit Jets on Nov. 25.
Titans: Visit Indianapolis.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker