NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans face the Patriots on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Here's a look at five things to watch in Sunday's game:
Can Titans get to Brady?**
Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton made it clear the unit's top priority is to get to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. If Brady is able to have time, and able to get comfortable, it's usually a long day for opposing defenses. Teams have gotten to him this season more than in the past, however, so there's hope. Brady has already been sacked 32 times on the season, after being sacked 21 times all of last season. The Titans need linebacker Brian Orakpo to make some noise, but they'll need help from others as well. Keeping the quick-hitters from being completed early would also help.
Gang tackle Gronk
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is going to get his – he always does. The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder has 61 catches for 1,018 yards on the season, with 10 touchdowns. He's a tough matchup, no doubt. The Titans have to find a way to limit his effectiveness, and when he gets the ball in his hands, they need to gang tackle him, and get him to the ground. Otherwise, they'll have to watch him spike the football into the stands.
Get off to a fast start
The Titans were out of sync early last Sunday against the Jets. They dropped passes, missed tackles, and frankly seemed lifeless early on in the contest. As a result, they fell behind 10-0 after the first quarter, and 27-0 by halftime. The Titans can't afford another slow start in this one. The Titans need to play with energy out of the gate, and they need to make some plays to get early momentum. By doing so, they'd also put some pressure on the Patriots.
Mariota big test**
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has faced all kinds of tests in his rookie season, and he'll face a big one in Foxboro. Patriots coach Bill Belichick has made a career out of frustrating quarterbacks, young and old. He likes to throw different looks at quarterbacks to confuse them. So how will Mariota handle the curveballs, and the pressure? Mariota struggled early against the Jets, including an early interception. The Titans will need him to play pretty close to error-free football against the 11-2 Patriots.
It's no secret the Titans want to get tight end Delanie Walker the football. He was the intended target on Mariota's first three throws against the Jets, and he's been the offense's most productive player all season. The Titans need some other players to step up on offense, especially at the receiver position. Youngsters like Dorial Green-Beckham and Andrew Turzilli should get a shot, and they'll need to make plays. The Titans also need to run the ball better than they did last week, when they managed just 24 yards on the ground.