FOXBOROUGH, Mass. —The Titans didn't have any snow to dig out of here on Sunday -- only points.
And for the second week in a row, the early deficit was way too much to overcome.
"The opponents we're playing, you really have to play error free, and you have to be playing at a high level, everybody,'' Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey said following the team's 33-16 loss to the Patriots. "You can't make mistakes like we made, some very unacceptable, against anybody.
"Against a good team, the defending Super Bowl champs, you're really not giving yourself a chance to compete in the game. We settled down in the second half. It is my job to get them to come out and play the first half… I'll find a way to do that the last two games."
The Titans not only lost a football game, they also lost their starting quarterback.
Marcus Mariota was injured in the second quarter of the contest, and did not return. He injured his right knee on a third down play when he was sacked by Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins.
Zach Mettenberger replaced Mariota on the next series, and finished the game. Mariota missed two games earlier this season after suffering a left knee injury in the team's October 18 game against the Dolphins.
Mularkey said the team doesn't believe Mariota's injury is serious, and he's expected to be evaluated further on Monday. The team held him out of the second half for precautionary reasons, Mularkey said.
Mettenberger was 20-of-28 for 242 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions in the contest. He was sacked twice. Mariota finished the day 3-of-6 for 34 yards, and he was sacked three times in the contest. Mariota was sacked five times in last week's 30-8 loss to the Jets, a game the Titans fell behind in 27-0 by halftime.
The Titans trailed 24-3 at halftime on Sunday.
"You have to be ready,'' Mettenberger said. "I felt like I did a lot of good today, but at the same time I made too many mistakes for us to get back in the game."
The Tennessee Titans take on the New England Patriots in Week 15 at Gillette Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
After falling behind big early, the Titans (3-11) made some late noise in this one, but couldn't survive another slow start against the high-flying Patriots (12-2).
The Patriots took a 7-0 lead early on a five-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady to tight end Rob Gronkowski midway through the first quarter.
It became 14-0 after Mariota was sacked by defensive end Chandler Jones — Mariota lost the ball and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown.
A 49-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop made it 14-3 with 9:44 left in the first half, but the Patriots responded with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Brady to running back James White, and added a field goal from kicker Stephen Gostkowski to make it 24-3 at the half.
The Titans showed some fight in the second half in this one.
Led by Mettenberger, the Titans scored on their opening series of the second half. Mettenberger guided the Titans on a seven-play, 59-yard drive that was capped off with a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Delanie Walker, which made it 24-10.
After another Gostkowski field goal, Walker scored on a 57-yard touchdown catch to cut the lead to 27-16. Walker bowled over Patriots safety Patrick Chung after making the catch, and he used a stiff-arm to get past defensive back Jordan Richards on the way to the end zone.
The Patriots added another field goal from Gostkowski to make it 30-16. Brady completed 23-of-35 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
Walker had two catches for 64 yards in the contest, with two touchdowns. In the process, he also set a single-season record for tight end receiving yards in a season. Walker now has 935 yards on the season.
"We've got fight – that's the positive side,'' Walker said. "The negative side is we hurt ourselves, week after week we hurt ourselves. And we have to stop that."
The Titans have two games left, including the home-finale against Texans next Sunday.
Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said it's important to end the season on a high note.
"It's growing pains, man,'' Orakpo said. "You live and you learn.
"(The message now) is fight for your job, because you never know, Everything might be at stake when the season is over with, so fight for your job and fight for your family. This is your job, this is how you put food on the table, and that's how we have to approach it the last few weeks."