NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 12 Game Recap: New England Patriots 36, Tennessee Titans 13

Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (27) reacts after intercepting a pass in the Tennessee Titans end zone in the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

An undermanned Tennessee Titans offense missing Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones wasn’t able to keep pace with the New England Patriots in a 36-13 Week 12 loss. 

Tennessee’s 5.6 yards per play was above their season average of 5.2 yards entering this game, but three turnovers in New England territory killed the momentum on several of their drives.  

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Tennessee Titans

Quarterback

The good for Ryan Tannehill is that he went 4-for-5 for 54 yards with two scrambles for 18 yards on seven play-action dropbacks. The bad news is that non-play action dropbacks didn’t go nearly as well for Tannehill. 

Situation Dropbacks Yards Per Play
Play-action 7 10.3
No play-action 19 1.7

The net result was 93 total passing yards and just 4.4 yards per attempt for Tannehill, who clearly missed his top two targets in the passing game. 

Running Back

Tennessee split the offensive snaps at running back right down the middle with Dontrell Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman each receiving 31 snaps. Both ran for 100 yards, but Hilliard looked to be the more elusive runner with five missed tackles forced and nearly 7.0 yards after contact per attempt. 

Neither was very involved in the passing game with two receptions for five yards combined between the two of them.  

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

As one might expect with Tannehill coming in at fewer than 100 passing yards in the game, pickings were slim for this group. 

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine led the way in every receiving category with 23 routes, two receptions on four targets, 25 receiving yards and a touchdown. 

Offensive Line

Each of Tennessee’s starting offensive linemen was charged with a pressure allowed, per PFF’s first-run analysis. Rodger Saffold was the only member of the group who wasn’t charged with multiple pressures. 

Aaron Brewer, filling in at right guard for the injured Nate Davis, will likely be the offensive line’s highest-graded run blocker once grades are finalized Monday. 

Defensive Line

This is the first game since his rookie season in 2019 that Jeffery Simmons didn’t record a quarterback pressure, pending review. It was a quiet day overall for a group that has taken a clear step forward in 2021. Denico Autry led the way with three quarterback pressures (all hurries). 

Linebackers

PFF’s initial run of grading found all three of Tennessee’s linebackers who saw the field on defense grade poorly. Jayon Brown missed two tackles and was charged with allowing four first-down receptions in coverage as the snap leader in that group.   

Secondary

It was an uncharacteristically weak game in coverage for Kevin Byard, who has been one of the best safeties in the NFL this season. Pending review, Byard was charged with five receptions allowed for 97 yards and two touchdowns as the primary coverage defender.

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New England Patriots

Quarterback

The stat line for Mac Jones (23-of-35 for 310 yards and two touchdowns) is going to look a lot better for Jones than his PFF grade will on Monday. Jones recorded one turnover-worthy play compared to zero big-time throws, and 54% of his passing yards came after the catch, per PFF’s first-run analysis. 

Running Back

The Patriots split the work evenly in the backfield between Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden, with Bolden serving as the primary receiving back. 

Player Snaps Carries Targets
Stevenson 19 9 1
Harris 18 11 1
Bolden 18 0 4

Stevenson was the more effective runner with 4.4 yards after contact per carry compared to just 1.7 yards after contact per attempt for Harris.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Kendrick Bourne came through with two of the biggest plays for New England’s offense in this game, including this 41-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown

Bourne and Jakobi Meyers recorded five receptions for 50-plus receiving yards. This was also one of Jonnu Smith’s best games as a Patriot. He averaged over 9.0 yards after the catch on his three receptions. All three went for first downs. 

Offensive Line

New England once again went with Ted Karras at left guard and Trent Brown at right tackle, leaving Michael Onwenu as the sixth offensive lineman. 

It was a strong effort from the unit collectively. Jones was pressured on less than 25% of his dropbacks, pending review, and New England averaged 1.7 rushing yards before contact per attempt.  

Defensive Line

Matthew Judon continues to lead the way for New England’s pass rush with three quarterback pressures in this game, including a sack, a hit and a quarterback hurry. Davon Godchaux also delivered a strong individual performance against the run despite Tennessee’s ability to move the ball on the ground. 

Linebackers

This was a strong showing from New England’s linebacker trio of Ja’Whaun Bentley, Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower. Van Noy recorded two pass breakups, Hightower allowed just 18 receiving yards on three targets and Bentley led the defense with 11 total tackles. All three should finish with solid PFF grades. 

Secondary

The ball continues to find its way into J.C. Jackson’s hands, as he picked up yet another interception. Jalen Mills was targeted more than any other New England defender at the other cornerback spot, but his six targets resulted in just three receptions allowed for 17 yards. Mills added two forced incompletions to that stat line. 

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