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Patriots Week 12 Notebook: A Titan Stampede, Gifts From Tennessee, and So Much for ‘Dink and Dunk’

Patriots

While it wasn’t pretty, the New England Patriots stepped up when the team needed to. New England outscored Tennessee 20-0 in the second half, forcing two fumbles and an interception leading to a 36-13 win over the Titans. The Titans were not playing with the 8-3 team they had. With many missing starters, this game should not have been close. Patriots fans will be thankful the game stayed one-sided.

What Went Right For Patriots?

Gunner Olszewski  

Olszewski gave New England great starting field position. He averaged 28 yards on kick returns with 11.5 yards per punt return. All five of Gunner’s returns led to two touchdowns, two field goals, and missed kick as well. Olszewski created scoring chances with every return.

Mac Jones

The rookie started the game a little off with his accuracy, misfiring on a few throws. However, Jones finished the drive with a perfect touchdown pass in the face of pressure on 3rd down to Kendrick Bourne. Earlier this week, Safety Kevin Byard had this to say regarding Mac Jones:

“(Mac Jones) can dink and dunk it as much as he wants. If they do get in the red zone, we’ll be good,” said Byard.

Well, it was Byard who gave up the touchdown in the red-zone...

Jones finished the day with a career-high in passing yards (310) with two touchdowns, averaging 9.7 yards per attempt. So much for dink and dunk. Jones effortlessly moved up the field, but his one poor decision came to a near interception to Jonnu Smith. Bad decision, bad throw, it should have been a pick-six. Jones also missed a wide-open Hunter Henry for a walk-in touchdown. The rookie may have one or two poor throws a game, but he continues to respond effectively while setting the offense up for success.

Jones did also post a career-worst PFF grade of 51.9.

Jonnu Smith

Great to see Smith get going against his former team. Jonnu Smith’s consistency has been a missing piece to a growing offense. This week, Smith showed how much he can add to the passing attack. Not only with his talent after the catch, Smith ran more routes in the middle of the field. The Patriots must continue to get him involved, not just on manufactured touches. He needs to be trusted in the middle of the field.

What Went Wrong?

Run Defense

The run game kept Tennessee in the football game. New England’s defense had no answer for two practice squad running backs. The Patriots surrendered 270 rushing yards with 6.9 yards per carry. The final minute of the first half nearly costed New England the game.

Here’s the scenario: up by ten with one minute left in the half, the Patriots nearly forced a fumble and an interception, the Titan’s half was done. 3rd down, New England gives up a 68-yard touchdown run, essentially untouched. Plays like that are inexcusable and often lead to self-inflicted losses.

Red-Zone Offense

The Patriots’ first-month woes returned offensively. New England tends to create strong, methodical drives that stall out within 20 yards. The Patriots went 2-for-5 in the red-zone this week. It’s great to get there often, but settling for field goals will keep any team in the game.

Buffalo, Indy, Buffalo. These next three games will reveal a lot about New England and who is a top team not only in the AFC but in the NFL.

The Patriots will play the Buffalo Bills Monday Night at 8:20 p.m. EST.

(AP Photo/Steven Sennets)

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