FOXBOROUGH – It’s premature to say the Titans toppled a dynasty at Gillette Stadium Saturday night.
But they showcased their bruiser birthday running back as they dethroned the champions with an imperfect game, advancing to a matchup in Baltimore to renew a once violent rivalry. They won a wild card playoff game for the second time in three seasons.
And that’s plenty.
“We’ve been on the other side of it,” said Logan Ryan, who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots but was part of the 2017 Titans who lost here in the divisional round. “The whole thing was you can’t get caught looking at the pinstripes. They are a championship organization, they are all class, they’ve got the best quarterback, the best coach.
“But we were just trying to win the game. Mike (Vrabel) preached that to the team, he brought a team of believers up here.”
Vrabel won three Super Bowls in eight seasons playing for Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Given a chance to say the game meant something to him because of all that, he pointed to his team now.
“I’m honored to coach these guys,” he said, “And there is no other team that I would rather have come in here with than the one that was out there on the field. I’m thankful I get to coach them another week.”
As they did in a regular-season win over the Patriots in Nashville last season, the Titans shut out the Patriots in the second half.
Their 14-13 intermission lead expanded to 20-13 only when Ryan grabbed Brady’s last pass of the season and took if back 9-yards for a pick 6 with 9 seconds remaining in the game.
The Patriots head into the offseason having lost to all four of the AFC’s remaining teams Tennessee, Houston, top-seeded Baltimore and No. 2 seed Kansas City.
Tom Brady is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career and the 42-year old is no lock to be back.
When the Titans and Patriots practiced together during training camp and we saw just how close he and Vrabel are and when the Titans own quarterback situation was so up in the air, I thought a Nashville pairing of the two might be a real possibility.