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3 Patriots takeaways from dominant Week 12 win over Titans

Patriots, Mac Jones, Bill Belichick

The New England Patriots entered Sunday’s matchup vs the Tennessee Titans in 2nd place in the AFC East division. They left the game as the number one seed in the AFC after a dominating win. The Patriots defeated the Titans 36-13 Sunday.

A lot has changed in the conference since New England was 2-4. The Patriots have won six straight games and lead the AFC East at 8-4. The Buffalo Bills are 7-4, having had their bye week already. New England and Buffalo will square off in Orchard Park, New York on Monday Night Football for the division lead.

There are a lot of key takeaways from New England’s overpowering victory. Here are three of them.

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New England Patriots Takeaways from Week 12 Win

3. The Patriots can win without a power running game

Entering Sunday, it was thought that the Patriots can only win one way. They will run the ball, play good defense and not ask Mac Jones to do too much. Well, so much for that. The rest of the NFL should take notice too.

Not only did the Patriots not run the ball well, they also got torched on the ground themselves. Tennessee, without Derrick Henry who is out with a foot injury for possibly the rest of the season, ran for 270 yards. Both D’Onta Foreman and backup Dontrelle Hilliard ran for over 100 yards. It didn’t matter.

Patriots running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson were held completely in check. They combined to rush for 86 yards on 20 carries. The Titans did a very good job limiting their production. It didn’t matter.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has his defense looking similar to years past. They might bend, but they won’t break. Despite the yardage allowed on the ground, New England once again only allowed 13 points.

2. The Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones might be the Offensive Rookie of the Year

The Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones showed that he can do more than just manage a game. He made a number of good throws downfield, and finished with a career high 310 yards passing without an interception. Once again, he looked poised and accurate with the football.

Jones also performed well when the Titans brought extra rushers, something he has done all season. Jones’ PPF grade vs the blitz this season is 90. No other rookie QB is higher than 69.

Following the win, Mac Jones became only the 3rd rookie in NFL history to win six straight starts. The previous two, Dak Prescott (2016) and Robert Griffin III (2012) won Offensive Rookie of the Year.

1. This season is beginning to look a lot like 2001 for New England

The New England Patriots are 8-4, sitting atop the AFC East and have looked like one of the most impressive teams in football over the last month and a half. The season was not supposed to play out like this.

New England posted their first season with a losing record in 2020. That happened to be the first season without Tom Brady at the helm, leaving many to wonder how much Belichick truly contributed to the team’s six Super Bowl championships.

Well, here we are, a season later, and Belichick has the team improving as the season goes along, once again. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones is playing far better than anyone expected and is the aforementioned favorite for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award now.

The defense is dominant. The Patriots have allowed a total of 26 points in the last four weeks. Overall, they have a +146 point differential, the best in the NFL. This was not supposed to happen. Not this quickly.

It is beginning to look very reminiscent of the 2001 New England Patriots. That team had a very young quarterback, Tom Brady, in his 2nd year but his first year starting. They ran a power run scheme offensively, with Antowain Smith leading the backfield. They had a very good defense, led by defensive end Richard Seymour up front, Tedy Bruschi in the linebacking core, and Ty Law anchoring the back end.

20 years later, they are looking like a similar type team. The Patriots have a young quarterback poised beyond his years in Mac Jones. They have a two-headed monster power running game with Harris and Stevenson. Their defense has one of the league’s best linebacker groups in Matthew Judon, Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy.

Their secondary has improved dramatically as the season has progressed. Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for a season low 93 yards Sunday.

The question that remains for this team is whether or not this was all a mirage based on schedule, or if they are really that good. During their six game winning streak, the Patriots have defeated the Jets, Chargers, Panthers, Browns, Falcons and Titans.

The next three weeks will be telling as New England will play Buffalo twice, sandwiched around a game against the Indianapolis Colts.