Safety Duron Harmon and his buddies on the New England defense know they have to deal with Marcus Mariota's "unique skill" set when the Tennessee Titans visit the Patriots for Saturday night's AFC divisional playoff game. In fact, these extraordinarily large age gaps between QBs in the playoffs are rare and have always favored the older player. ESPN published an article on how there is turmoil at the top of the dynasty between owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and star quarterback Tom Brady.
Mariota, who had an 87-yard touchdown run in 2015, his rookie season, ran for 60 yards on 10 carries in the regular-season finale. The game marks Vikings quarterback Case Keenum's first career playoff start - and the first post-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium - site of next month's Super Bowl.
While it all ended with Brady, it didn't exactly begin there. These issues have been apparent all season, and they hit with a major thud Saturday night. Will this news story affect the Patriots in this Sunday's AFC Divisional matchup against the Tennessee Titans?
But since 2001, quarterbacks making their first or second career playoff start are 0-7 against New England.
New England jumped out first thanks to a 41-yard touchdown from Brady to Bethel Johnson.
Bye-week blues: The Patriots had a first-round playoff bye, meaning they might not be at their best early as they shake off the rust.
Gronkowski has gone for more than 140 yards in two of his last three games, but the Titans have excellent safeties in Johnathan Cyprien and Kevin Byard, who led the National Football League with eight interceptions this season. He picked up 46 yards on eight attempts in the playoff win over the Chiefs last Saturday. New England is favored by 131/2 points. This debut couldn't have gone any better; Gilmore pitched a shutout. Fortunately, they were able to come back and win but this week, those things could cost them. But this seems like a very tall order for a young team - led by Marcus Mariota under center. Lewis ran for 62 yards and had 79 yards receiving, along with a 27-yard kickoff return against Tennessee. Fellow rookie Adam Butler also had a sack, while Trey Flowers, Marquis Flowers, Ricky Jean Francois and Geneo Grissom (twice) also brought Mariota down behind the line of scrimmage.
Who the Trends Like: New England and the over.
The Titans, who entered the postseason with a negative point-differential of minus-22, looked the part from the second quarter on. It was also the most by an undrafted player, just edging out Steve Watson's 177 yards in 1984. Before getting injured, he was fourth on the team with 33 catches, but he was just one catch behind Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks.
Only one more touchdown was scored, a McNair connection with Derrick Mason late in the third quarter to tie the game.
"It definitely sounds insane", tight end Rob Gronkowski said of how the team handled the news coverage during the week.
Kickoff is at 8:00 p.m. ET.