ATLANTA – The Titans handled the New England Patriots back in November, turning in their most dominating performance of the year in a 34-10 win at Nissan Stadium.
Some observers thought it was perhaps the beginning of the end for the Patriots.
Quarterback Tom Brady looked his age that day, taking sacks and getting rid of the ball in a hurry. He looked slow and awkward as he was unable to haul in a pass on a trick play.
The Titans exposed New England's defense, as quarterback Marcus Mariota passed for 228 yards and two touchdowns, receiver Corey Davis caught seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, and running back Derrick Henry ran for two touchdowns as the Titans pulled away.
But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to New England's demise.
The Patriots got back on track, and earned the AFC's No.2 seed. When the playoffs started, they rolled over the glitzy Los Angeles Chargers, and then upset the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs.
And now, here they are, back in another Super Bowl, ready to claim another championship. They'll have to beat the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in Super Bowl LIII to do it.
Titans coach Mike Vrabel isn't surprised the Patriots made it back.
The same goes for general manager Jon Robinson.
Vrabel and Robinson spent a lot of years with the Patriots, Vrabel as a linebacker who won three Super Bowl rings. Robinson worked his way up in the scouting department with the team, and built a reputation that helped him reach the position he's in today.
How do the Patriots do it?
"I think they treat each week separately, and they don't get caught up in the noise around them," Vrabel said. "They have a great coaching, leadership. They have phenomenal player leadership. And I think Bill (Belichick) does a phenomenal job of improving his football team as the season goes along.
"Bill understands it's a progress league and you have to continue to improve and they have done that better than anybody."
With a New England victory, the Patriots would capture their sixth Super Bowl championship, which would tie the Pittsburgh Steelers (six) for most in NFL history. A win would give the Patriots their 37th postseason win, which would surpass the Steelers for the most all-time.
Belichick would join George Halas and Curly Lambeau as the only coaches ever to win six NFL championships.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has overseen one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sports.
"It starts at the top with Mr. Kraft, and the continuity that he is able to keep with coach Belichick," Robinson said. "Obviously Tom (Brady), he is a Hall of Fame player, and he does an outstanding job playing the quarterback position. And the coaching staff, they lose some guys occasionally, but the next guy steps up and the message remains the same, the goal remains the same, and the level of preparation remains the same.
"You can never count those guys out, and I think that is something all 31 other teams are trying to emulate, just get to that level where you can have that kind of consistency overall over a countless number of years."
Quarterback Tom Brady has won five Super Bowls, and he'll be making his ninth Super Bowl appearance on Sunday.
Brady is the all-time postseason leader in games played (39), wins (29), completions (954), pass yards (10,917) and touchdown touchdown passes (73). Has 16 playoff games with 300-plus pass yards, the most in NFL history. Brady has two the two highest single-game passing totals in Super Bowl history (505 yards in SB LII and 466 yards in SB LI).
Yes, he's still here.
"He's an unbelievable competitor," Vrabel said of Brady, his former teammate. "I always come to expect it, because I have been in the locker room with him, and he's a friend.
"His competitive level, his preparation, how hard he's worked, it's why he's had so much success."
The Tennessee Titans take on the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2000 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga. (AP Photos)