Latest beatdown shows sizable gap remains between Titans and AFC elite

From ESPN - January 13, 2018

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Tennessee Titans talked all week about how they wanted an opportunity to show they could hang with the AFC elite. On Saturday night, we learned they are not there yet.

The New England Patriots were the better team in every department -- coaching, offense and defense -- in their 35-14 win. Tennessee winning its first playoff game since the 2003 season was a good takeaway from the season, but there still remains a sizable gap between it and the AFC elite. The Titans might not be as close to being true contenders as they had hoped.

"Hopefully people use this as motivation," quarterback Marcus Mariota said. "Yeah, it's nice to get in the playoffs, but you do not play to just get in, especially coming in the divisional playoff and losing the way we did."

New England shut down Tennessee after the Titans scored the first touchdown of the game. Tom Brady was vintage, picking apart the holes in the Titans' defense. A front seven that needed to step up and make Brady uncomfortable was extremely disappointing, barely touching him and failing to register a sack.

On a day when several Titans needed to play their best football ever to pull an upset, none of them -- outside of rookie Corey Davis, who scored his first two career touchdowns -- played particularly well. The final result was a club that was outclassed by the Patriots.

It's a bittersweet end to the season for the Titans. They made playoff progress, but there is an apparent need for change in offensive scheme if this team ever hopes to be a championship contender.

"As an offense, I will be the first one to say that we underachieved this year," left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "To make it this far, that's extremely promising, but we ca not do that again in the 2018 season. We have the firepower to do it. It's just a matter of getting it done."

The Titans believed Mariota would give them a chance to shock the world, but his teammates and coaches did not do a ton to help him out. Plus, Mariota lacked the juice he displayed last week in Kansas City -- during the Titans' wild-card win over the Chiefs -- to make splash plays.

Rookie wideout Taywan Taylor dropped two passes that could have led to points and momentum to end the first half. Coach Mike Mularkey completely botched the clock management at the end of the first half, costing the Titans potential points.


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