Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
Sport | By Billy Aguilar

Mariota a challenge for New England's defense

Mariota a challenge for New England's defense

When the New England Patriots step back onto the field on Saturday, it will have been two weeks since they had a moment of game action.

He made two things quite clear: He was impressed by a Tennessee team that advanced in the postseason with a comeback win over Kansas City on wild-card weekend and, maybe most important, he was only focused on talking about his upcoming game and opponent.

Now, the Titans are two-touchdown underdogs as the Patriots are expected by most people to take the next step toward their sixth Super Bowl crown of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Era.

That's a foreboding sign for the Titans when considering how the Patriots have performed when favored by that many points.

Mularkey also has a message for all those who think the Titans will be gone from the playoffs by late Saturday night. They've had a good year and they've got a good team, so we're going to have to be at our best.

As for the Brady-Mariota matchup, it marks the second time they will face each other, though Mariota injured his knee early in the first matchup - a 33-16 Patriots win on December 20, 2015 - and played only 19 snaps that day. "He's always studying as hard as he can every week, so just seeing him do the same old that he does every week - prepare hard, practice hard and get ready for the game".

"You know what, I'll be honest with you, I don't know anything about it", Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey said on a conference call with the New England media, regarding the controversy. I've kept in touch with all those guys. "It says to me that they have a great deal of mental toughness", Slater said. "But I think we'll have a better chance that way than him being able to escape, throw it deep or run for 30 or 40 yards". Now you put everything that you have into this one-game season.

In a 1978 Divisional Playoff contest, the Oilers traveled to Schaefer Stadium and advanced to the AFC Championship with a 31-14 win, courtesy of three touchdown passes by Dan Pastorini and 118 rushing yards by Earl Campbell. The Titans are going to keep the ball on the ground, and take care of it. The Chiefs had been weak against the run all season.

With the win over the Chiefs, Mularkey now has a victory in his first post-season game.

Tennessee's Marcus Mariota caught his own touchdown pass in the big win over the Chiefs.

But Mariota was also sixth in the NFL (Brady was first) in third-down passer rating.

Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray has been ruled out for this week's game against the Patriots.

"I love him as a player, as a person, and what he does for this football team", Mularkey said.

However, Locker and Washington were both forced out of the game due to injury on the same play early in the fourth quarter. In terms of the Vegas line, that's also the biggest upset suffered by the Patriots in a playoff game in the Belichick era.

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