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Custom Marcus Mariota Jersey Large

FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts – For the second straight week, the Titans got Marcus Mariota involved.

Mariota, the Titans longtime starting quarterback who was benched in Week 7 in favor of Ryan Tannehill, came out for one play during Tennessee’s opening drive against the Patriots in their AFC wild-card game on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. He completed a 4-yard pass to tight end MyCole Pruitt.

The Titans ended their opening drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Anthony Firkser.

Last week, Mariota came into the game against the Texans in the second quarter for one play, and, with Tannehill lined out wide, threw a 24-yard dart to receiver A.J. Brown to push Tennessee into Texans territory.

Custom Tye Smith Jersey Large

NASHVILLE — The Titans returned to the practice field on Tuesday at Saint Thomas Sports Park to continue preparations for Saturday’s playoff game against the New England Patriots.

Here’s a look at three quick hits from Tuesday:

Adoree Jackson Update

Titans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson was listed as a full participant in Tuesday’s practice.

Jackson hasn’t played since suffering a foot injury in the team’s December 1 game against the Colts. He’s been limited in some practices, but been sidelined in most.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel was asked before practice about how much Jackson could help the secondary if he’s able to return. Jackson started 10 of the first 11 games for the Titans before his injury.

Logan Ryan, Tramaine Brock, Tye Smith and LeShaun Sims have worked at cornerback in recent weeks.

“Sure, it’d be a boost to the entire team to have all our players that at some point in time during the season we’ve counted on to be available to play,” Vrabel said. “Not just the secondary, it would help the entire team, which is what we’re always about.”

Vrabel will make his postseason coaching debut on Saturday night.

Vrabel played linebacker eight seasons with the Patriots, and won three Super Bowl rings while playing under head coach Bill Belichick.

Last year, the Vrabel-coached Titans beat the Belichick-coached Patriots 34-10 in Nashville. Back in August, the Patriots beat the Titans 22-17 at Nissan Stadium.

On Saturday, the two coaches will meet in the postseason.

Vrabel said on Tuesday it’s dangerous to anticipate what Belichick might be thinking.

“There’s a fine line between just going ahead and changing a bunch of stuff and thinking, ‘Well, they’re going to do this, so we can’t do that,’ and doing stuff that the players believe in, that they have confidence in and they can go out and execute based on whatever look they may see,” Vrabel said.

“So, there’s going to, obviously, be an element of game plan just like there is every week. So, Bill will prepare his team like he does, and I’ll do the best job to get our guys ready to play.”

Receiver Adam Humphries (ankle) and Kalif Raymond (concussion) did not practice on Tuesday.

Both players missed Sunday’s game at Houston, and Humphries has been sidelined since December 1.

Linebacker Daren Bates (shoulder) and receiver Cody Hollister (ankle) were listed as limited on today’s injury report.

Custom Logan Ryan Jersey Large

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. ⁠— There was no shortage of satisfaction among a certain few men in Gillette Stadium’s visiting locker room Saturday night.

Logan Ryan and Dion Lewis had just helped eliminate their old team from the postseason. Mike Vrabel captured three championships in New England as a player and has now moved on to the opposing sideline.

The Patriot Way was in evidence on this wild-card weekend, and it was best displayed by the Tennessee Titans. Ryan’s interception and return for a touchdown was the nail in the coffin, as the Patriots suffered a surprising 20-13 home defeat.

Ryan dropped what looked to be a certain touchdown late in the first half, as a Tom Brady pass caromed off the hands of Ben Watson and eventually landed on the turf. The former New England defensive back took advantage of a second opportunity with nine seconds to play, scampering nine yards with the Titans nursing a 14-13 edge.

“I was in the right place at the right time trying to make up,” Ryan said. “I was trying not to get killed on Twitter for dropping the first one. Half my mentions, I’m terrible. The other half, I’m great.”

The Patriots dismissed Tennessee, 35-14, in the divisional round two seasons ago. New England cut through the Titans with ease on their way to a Super Bowl defeat against the Eagles, and this was a different team that handed the Patriots just their fifth home playoff loss. Ryan credited Vrabel with instilling the mindset necessary to grind past his old club on this night.

Custom Tajae Sharpe Jersey Large

FOXBOROUGH – Former UMass receiver Tajae Sharpe pulled out his old threads for a game in his old home stadium.

Sharpe, now a receiver for the Titans, wore UMass warm-ups Saturday before Tennessee’s Wild Card round playoff game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

Sharpe played all of his home games during his first two seasons at UMass at Gillette Stadium as McGuirk Stadium as being renovated. The Minutemen split games between Amherst and Foxborough his junior and senior seasons. UMass was 2-15 at Gillette in his career.

Sharpe holds UMass records for catches in a game (15 vs. Florida International in 2015), a season (111 in 2015) and a career (277 from 2012-15).

Now 25, Sharpe, who was a fifth-round pick (140 overall) by Tennessee in 2016, had 25 catches for 329 yards and four touchdowns this season.

Custom LeShaun Sims Jersey Large

SALT LAKE CITY — The legend of Taysom Hill took another major leap Sunday, even in defeat.

The third-string New Orleans Saints quarterback and former BYU standout made several impacts plays for the Saints in their 26-20 overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the NFC wild-card playoffs.

It was little consolation for Hill and the Saints, who lost for the third straight season in the playoffs on the final play of the game — this time on a 4-yard Kyle Rudolph touchdown in overtime.

“We had a great season, a great team, and it hurts to go out like that,” Hill said in a postgame interview.

Hill’s 20-yard touchdown grab from New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees with 10:31 remaining in regulation — his seventh receiving touchdown of the season — brought the Saints within 20-17.

He also set up New Orleans’ first touchdown. First, Hill carried the ball for an 11-yard gain on a run-pass option to the Saints’ 46-yard line.

On the next play, with Hill lined up in the shotgun, he connected with Deonte Harris for a 50-yard gain on the longest pass of his pro career, setting up New Orleans with a first-and-goal at the Vikings 4.

The pass covered 54.7 yards through the air and had a completion probability of 27.2%, according to Next Gen Stats.

Hill then served as the lead blocker on the next play, as Alvin Kamara scored on a 4-yard carry to give the Saints a 10-3 lead in the second quarter.

“He’s really an asset for us, a great teammate. He made a lot of plays,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said of Hill in his postgame press conference.

The former BYU quarterback had his name all over the gamebook, rushing for a team-high 50 yards on four carries and catching two passes for 25 yards, in addition to his completed pass. His four carries all went for first downs and Hill also had a special teams tackle.

“It’s a team game. They were kind of forcing our hand, doing everything they could to take away Mike T. (receiver Michael Thomas) and some of our other guys so there were a few opportunities to step up and make a few plays. At the end of the day, it’s all about doing what you can to help our team win and that’s been my mindset all year,” Hill said.

His impact could have been greater, if not for the Vikings’ heroics to earn their second playoff win over the Saints in three years.

With under six minutes in the fourth quarter, Hill took a carry for a 9-yard gain to the New Orleans 47 on a third-and-1 to keep a drive alive. Two plays later, facing a second-and-5 at the Minnesota 48, Hill took the snap left and broke through a pair of tackles before rattling off a bruising 28-yard run to the Minnesota 20.

On the next play, Brees had the ball stripped by Danielle Hunter and the Vikings recovered to end the scoring threat and maintain Minnesota’s 20-17 lead.

In the third quarter, Hill appeared to convert a fourth-and-3 on a fake punt with New Orleans trailing 20-10, but the play was wiped out by a false start.

“We didn’t capitalize on some big-play opportunities when we had the chance. At the end of the day, when you add them up, they did made more plays than we did,” Brees said in his postgame press conference.

Hill lamented the Saints’ inability to get their offense going much of the game.

“I think we struggled on third down. It was tough to get drives started, get that first first down and get going. I think that was kind of the Achilles heel tonight,” he said.

Despite this, they still had a shot to win after New Orleans forced overtime with a 49-yard Will Lutz field goal with two seconds remaining in regulation. Minnesota advanced to the NFC divisional round, though, by driving 75 yards on nine plays on the first drive of overtime and won on Kirk Cousins’ 4-yard score to Rudolph.

Hill, who’s spent his first three NFL seasons with the Saints, will be a restricted free agent this offseason.

“Minnesota played a good game and you’ve got to tip your hat to them,” Hill said.

Other NFL locals on wild-card weekend

Marcus Williams, FS, New Orleans: The former Utah defender started at free safety and had a team-high 10 tackles, including five solo stops, in the Saints’ loss.

Cody Barton, LB, Seattle: The former Utah and Brighton High standout started his first-ever playoff game at SAM linebacker and had a solid outing in the Seahawks’ 17-9 win over Philadelphia, finishing with a sack on a second-and-8 play that helped force a punt, two pass deflections and a quarterback hurry. He also had five tackles, including four solo stops.

Bobby Wagner, MLB, Seattle: The former Utah State star started at middle linebacker and had seven tackles, including six solo stops and a tackle for loss on a third-down play, in the win over the Eagles.

Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, DE, Seattle: The former BYU pass rusher had a solo tackle and a quarterback hurry before leaving the game with an injury in the second quarter.

Marquise Blair, S, Seattle: The former Utah safety played, but did not record any statistics in the Seahawks’ win.

Robert Turbin, RB, Seattle: The former Utah State back played but did not record any statistics in the Seahawks’ win.

John Ursua, WR, Seattle: The former Cedar and Westlake High standout played, but did not record any statistics in the Seahawks’ win.

Bryan Mone, DT, Seattle: The former Highland High lineman was not active for the Seahawks’ win.

Sua Opeta, OG, Philadelphia: The former Weber State and Stansbury High product was not active for the Eagles’ loss to the Seahawks.
Kyle Van Noy, LB, New England: The former BYU ’backer had a strip sack on Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the third quarter and added five tackles for the Patriots — including a stop for no gain on a third-and-3 play in the fourth — in their 20-13 loss to the Titans.

LeShaun Sims, CB, Tennessee: The former Southern Utah defensive back played 11 special-teams snaps in the Titans’ win.

Star Lotulelei, DT, Buffalo: The former Utah, Snow College and Bingham High product started at defensive tackle and had solo two tackles for the Bills in their 22-19 overtime loss to Houston. The second came on a fourth-and-1 for no gain late in the fourth quarter and helped lead to a Bills field goal that forced overtime.

Taron Johnson, CB, Buffalo: The former Weber State defensive back started and had a pass deflection on a third-down play that led to a punt before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury in the loss to the Texans.

Custom Jonnu Smith Jersey Large

FOXBOROUGH — While Derrick Henry is the NFL’s rushing king, Ryan Tannehill posted the league’s highest passer rating, and A.J. Brown is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, the Patriots aren’t forgetting about Jonnu Smith.

The third-year tight end flies under the radar in the Titans offense, but Bill Belichick was lofty in his praise for Smith on Thursday morning.

“He’s just a really good tight end,” Belichick said. “Can do a lot of things. Blocks well. Runs well. Is a good receiver. Played him at tailback, he looked pretty good back there. He’s a very athletic player. Hard to tackle. Catches the ball well.

“(He’s) great after the catch, probably the best in the league. I mean, I can’t imagine anyone better than him after the catch.”

Smith has 35 grabs for 439 yards and three touchdowns, and bringing him down is clearly a point of emphasis for the Patriots defense.

Heck, tackling every Titan will be.

“Obviously, they’ve got a lot of guys that can beat you vertical, but you watch them – it’s a quick slant or a slim post and A.J. Brown catches it, now he breaks a tackle and now you’re trying to catch a guy that you’re not going to catch,” Devin McCourty said. “Jonnu Smith – the guy that people really don’t talk about a lot in that offense – he has a toss-play for 60 yards, he has a quick slant for like another 50 yards.

“A lot of it is going to come down to, obviously, you can’t let the ball behind. You can’t let your guys run by you. We’ve got to do a good job when they make catches of everyone getting to the ball and tackling because they’ve got a lot of big, strong, fast guys on that team, a lot of guys that don’t really look like they fit in the position they’re in.”

Custom Dion Lewis Jersey Large

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is expected to miss Sunday’s contest against the New Orleans Saints, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, leaving Dion Lewis as the team’s feature back. So, just how valuable does that make Lewis for fantasy owners?

Somewhat valuable, it turns out.

Henry has emerged over the past two years, though Lewis still notched 517 rushing yards with 59 receptions for 400 yards and two total touchdowns last season. Solid numbers, and a reminder that Lewis already has a role on this team, even if he’s become the clear No. 2 on the depth chart.

This year he’s offered a more modest 134 rushing yards, adding 24 receptions for 145 yards and a score. Henry has been so dominant as the starter, however, that Lewis has been less needed.

So while it’s possible the Titans will work in Khari Blasingame to keep Lewis fresh, Henry’s injury likely opens the door for Lewis to serve as the team’s true feature back.

When Lewis has been given opportunities in the past, he’s made the most of them. While injuries hampered him between the 2015 and 2016 seasons in New England, he accumulated 999 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in 14 games during those campaigns.

In standard-scoring leagues, that was good for around 8.8 fantasy points per contest. Not too shabby.

In 2017, Lewis stayed healthy and rushed for 896 yards and six touchdowns, adding 32 receptions for 214 yards and another three scores. That production offered fantasy owners in standard-scoring leagues around 10.3 fantasy points per game.

Keep in mind, New England was utilizing a heavy running back rotation, with James White earning most of the looks out of the backfield in the passing game. In Tennessee, Lewis will take on that role alongside earning the majority of the carries. Put simply, he is locked in place as a solid flex option with Henry sidelined.

As for Blasingame, he’s too risky to trust for championship week unless you find yourself in a deeper league or desperate for options at running back. But in Tennessee’s backfield, Lewis is the far safer play.

Custom Wesley Woodyard Jersey Large

NASHVILLE – At the end of Sunday’s Titans-Saints game, a special moment took place between Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard and Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

It also involved Ashante Woodyard, Wesley’s older cousin who was teammates with Brees at Purdue back in 2000.

On Sunday, roughly twenty years later at Nissan Stadium, they were all reunited in a moment that brought back some great memories for all of them.

“I idolized Drew growing up,” Woodyard said. “I kept his autograph throughout my high school years in my sock and underwear drawer. It was the first thing I would see when I’d wake up in the morning. I’d see his signature every time I opened that drawer and I would think: This is my motivation to get to be great, and my motivation to get to the NFL.”

Ashante Woodyard, a defensive back at Purdue, was also a source of motivation. And he’s the reason Woodyard first met Brees on the campus at Purdue.

Woodyard, a rising high school sophomore, went to train with his cousin in West Lafayette, Indiana. He happened to run into Brees in the parking lot on campus one day and he shook his hand and got his autograph.

Woodyard, in his 12th NFL season, had faced Brees, in his 19th NFL season, previously in the NFL before Sunday’s game at Nissan Stadium.

But Sunday was special because Ashante was at the game, and when it ended Brees followed Wesley Woodyard over to the Titans sideline to see his former teammate. Ashante came down to the front row for the reunion.

“It was a cool moment,” Woodyard said. “I’ve played a lot of times against Drew, but that’s not where our friendship began. It began way back in 2000 when I was a Boilermaker fan, and a Drew Brees fan.

“What happened on Sunday, it was a moment that came full circle, to see those guys share a little love. And that is what the game is about. Drew is a guy I idolized, and he’s just as down to earth as any guy that is in the NFL. He’s a very special person and he has a special place in my heart. So to get a chance to compete against him and share the love, that’s special.”

Custom Daren Bates Jersey Large

The New England Patriots experienced a let down last week when a tenth-straight first-round playoff bye slipped away in a devastating home loss to the Miami Dolphins. For the first time in a decade, the Patriots will take the field on Wild Card weekend, hosting the sixth-seeded Tennessee Titans on Saturday night.

Although it might not be the scenario New England was hoping for, the Patriots have stayed locked in all week in preparation for a tough matchup to open the postseason. The Patriots have loads of postseason experience and understand how to win these kinds of games.

But on the other hand, the Foxborough weather could actually aid the Titans. Forecasts indicate a cold, driving rain for much of the night – conditions favorable for a run-heavy offense like Tennessee. New England has struggled to move the ball on the ground this year while Titans’ running back Derrick Henry won the league’s rushing title by amassing 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns.

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No. 6 Tennessee Titans at No. 3 New England Patriots

While Henry is a focal point of the team’s offense, Tennessee has experienced a turnaround following the insertion of Ryan Tannehill into the lineup. Head coach Mike Vrabel benched Marcus Mariota in favor or Tannehill and the Titans have since gone 7-3.

And though Corey Davis has been the top target for the Titans over the past few years, Tajae Sharpe and rookie A.J. Brown have established themselves as go-to receivers as well.

Defensively, Jurrell Casey continues to lead the Titans front, causing problems against the Patriots throughout his career matchups with the team. Tennessee is also strong at linebacker with Wesley Woodyard, Daren Bates, and Boston College product Harold Landry leading the charge. The secondary is deep too with former Patriot Logan Ryan leading the charge this season.
New England Patriots

The Patriots offense has been suspect for much of the season, mainly stemming from the lack of tight end involvement over the season. New England had the lowest tight end target percentage in the NFL this season at under 10 percent.

Without consistent production from tight ends, the Patriots were unable to run the ball effectively as well as spark the passing game for a decent stretch. While the rushing production has improved thanks to the emergence of Elandon Roberts as a fullback, New England’s offense is still sputtering.

Tom Brady has shown his age a little more in the final half of the season. Though he is still the most prolific postseason quarterback in NFL history, there has to be some doubt as to whether he can truly get it done this season.

Defensively, the Patriots have been rock solid with the exception of the regular-season finale against the Dolphins. Last Sunday, Ryan Fitzpatrick moved the ball at will, Devante Parker burned Stephon Gilmore throughout the day, and New England couldn’t contain Miami running back Patrick Laird. New England is hoping that was just an outlier performance and the Patriots have stayed determined to leave that loss in the past.
Prediction

Talks of the Patriots 20-year long dynasty ending have never been more widespread. The Titans could spell the end for New England’s dominance, but not if the New England weather has anything to say about it.

Tom Brady excels in cold, inclement weather games and Saturday will be no different with a wintery mix expected to hamper the teams late in the game. With the game on the line, Brady will find a way.

Pick: New England doesn’t cover the spread and also hits the under but will come away victorious, 24-20.

Custom Beau Brinkley Jersey Large

By now, Patriots fans have heard the not-so-good news: Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins means New England slides to the No. 3 spot in the AFC playoffs and will be forced to play on wild-card weekend for the first time in 10 years.

The opponent that day was the Baltimore Ravens, who came in to Gillette Stadium and ran for 234 yards in a 33-14 pasting of the Patriots. Ray Rice led the way, rushing for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, good for a 7.2 yards per carry average.

This year’s edition of the Patriots has also shown to be vulnerable against the run, which is not reassuring as they get ready for this year’s opponent. The 9-7 Tennessee Titans finished second in the AFC South to clinch the sixth and final spot in the AFC playoffs. They did so in large part by having the third-leading rushing attack this season. Their 2,223 yards trailed only the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

Here’s a look at some of the key figures for the Titans:

Head coach Mike Vrabel

Vrabel was a key cog in the Patriots’ first three Super Bowl victories, starring as a linebacker but also showing versatility to come in on offense and serve as a tight end. In two seasons as head coach with the Titans, he is 18-14, and will be making his postseason coaching debut. Against the Patriots last season, Vrabel got the better of his former organization, leading the Titans to a 34-10 win, and, in the process, making Tom Brady look very old.

Running back Derrick Henry

The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner is coming off his best NFL season, establishing career highs for rushing attempts (804), yards (1,540), average (5.1), and touchdowns (16) to win this year’s rushing crown. With the Titans needing a win Sunday to ensure a playoff berth, Henry rushed for a season-high 211 yards and three touchdowns in Tennessee’s 35-14 win over Houston.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill

After sevens seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Tannehill and a sixth round pick were traded to the Titans in exchange for draft picks in March. He began the 2019 season as the backup, but took over the starting duties when Marcus Mariota struggled. He has appeared in 12 games, making 10 starts in which the team has gone 7-3, He has thrown for 2,742 yards and 22 touchdowns, and just six interceptions, and was named as an alternate for the Pro Bowl.

Running back Dion Lewis

The former Patriots running back was the second leading rusher for the Titans, gaining 209 yards on 54 carries. He also had 25 receptions for 164 yards and a touchdown.

Wide receiver A.J. Brown

After starring at Mississippi, Brown was selected by the Titans in the second round of the 2019 draft with the 51st pick, 19 picks after the Patriots selected N’Keal Harry. He has 1,051 receiving yards on just 52 receptions, good for a 20.2 average per catch, as well as eight touchdowns, and is in the conversation for the offensive rookie of the year award.

Wide receiver Adam Humphries

The Patriots pursued Humphries last year in free agency, but the former Buccaneer agreed to a deal with Tennessee, citing Tom Brady’s age as a key reason why he chose the Titans. He has 37 receptions for 374 yards and two touchdowns.

Cornerback Logan Ryan

The former Patriots cornerback leads the Titans with 113 tackles. He also has four interceptions, second on the team to safety Kevin Byard. Both Ryan and Byard were chosen as Pro Bowl alternates. Don’t look for another former Patriot, Malcolm Butler, at the other cornerback position for Tennessee. The hero of Super Bowl XLIX was placed on injured reserve with a broken wrist suffered in Week 9.

Defensive end Jurell Casey

The nine-year veteran has 51 career sacks. This season he has 44 tackles and five sacks en route to be named as an alternate for the Pro Bowl.

Linebacker Harold Landry

The second year linebacker starred at Boston College, racking up 160 tackles, 26 sacks and 47.5 tackles for a loss. The Titans traded up in the 2018 draft to select him in the second round with the 41st pick. He leads the Tennessee defense this year with nine sacks.

Punter Brett Kern

We all know how much value Patriots coach Bill Belichick puts on special teams. The Titans have a Pro Bowl punter in Kern, who averaged 47.1 yards on 78 punts this season. Long snapper Beau Brinkley was chosen as an alternate for the Pro Bowl.