'Play our best:' Brady brushes off controversy, focuses on Titans

Bill Belichick Tom Brady

Patriots star Rob Gronkowski excited to be healthy, ready for playoffs

Among the intriguing storylines going into their matchup with the Tennessee Titans is the historic age gap between Brady and quarterback Marcus Mariota.

"Patriots first team in National Football League history awarded back-to-back bye weeks before the AFC Championship", Shaughnessy said via Twitter. But what would be the challenge in that? The team's really relying on you.

With no shortage of storylines for the as they prepare for Saturday night's AFC divisional-round game against the, here's one that stands out: Gronk is back in the postseason, one season after a back injury had sidelined him for the final eight games of the team's Super Bowl run.

-One or more Titans vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. Critics will quickly point to the distractions inside the building as a reason for hope for Marcus Mariota and his 9-7 playoff team.

Granted, those three performances came early in the season, when the Patriots' defense was in disarray. That is the only way the Titans can win this game: run the football, limit Mariota's opportunities for mistakes and take a few shots down the field to Corey Davis.

Jacksonville needs far better passing from Blake Bortles.

That's right: The blocking of Tennessee's quarterback is part of how the Patriots could be upset Saturday.

The Titans did not allow a tight end to have 100 receiving yards in a game this season.

Their red-zone defense is probably one of the tops in the NFL. It's on them to make sure he fails. "They do a lot of things well".

"We do what we always do", he said. But they'll need more. Not so much (though Tennessee is willing to joke about it). Mariota also threw a touchdown to Eric Decker from the 22.

The three pillars of the Patriots dynasty, who have delivered five Super Bowl titles since 2002, have pushed back hard against the revelations, which included a claim that Brady had pushed for understudy Jimmy Garoppolo to be traded against Belichick's wishes. Because the Patriots are still monsters of offensive production. Cornerback Logan Ryan played for Belichick for the past four years before he signed with the Titans as a free agent last offseason.

"Not to us players", he said. "We haven't been a very successful team in the last 10 years". I think they're just happy to have finally won a playoff game (their first postseason victory since 2004) and I think the Patriots are just a better, more experienced team. If we're able to do that, I think we can be successful. He has been saying, "Hey, do you want me to push off a little more or be more physical here?' He's done a great job".

This week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Which member of the Titans offense will be toughest for the Patriots defense to deal with? Derrick Henry gets 156 yards this (past weekend against the Chiefs).

Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy victor, broke out last week with DeMarco Murray sidelined, rushing for 156 yards on 23 carries.

"He saw some of the things that he missed by trying to bounce some things", Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. Tennessee is better on defence than the Chiefs but not even close offensively.

The Patriots, as detailed by ESPN's blockbuster last week, might be coming apart from the inside, torn by tension, ego and Brady's personal health guru. The Titans are the young up-and-comers, playing without pressure, knowing they had no business making it here in the first place.

"That was pretty cool", Brady said. I want them to enjoy this. Someone from among Kevin Byard, Jayon Brown, Wesley Woodyard and Johnathan Cyprien - maybe even two of them - will have to slow down Gronk. "We're all in on them".

Well, at least that's one person who believes in the Titans.

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