Death. Taxes. The Patriots making the AFC championship game.
New England entered Saturday’s game against the Titans with a litany of potential distractions. Brady demanded the Jimmy Garoppolo trade! Bill Belichick is going to leave for the Giants! It’s the beginning of the end for a 40-year-old quarterback and 65-year-old head coach after decades of unimaginable success! But all the headlines did was make New England stronger, like if the Sword of Gryffindor was wielded by Voldemort. The Patriots dismantled the Titans to the molecular level on Saturday, winning 35-14. You won’t be surprised by the score, but you may be surprised by these numbers:
Zero: That’s how many times Tom Brady was sacked. Brady finished 35-of-53 for 337 yards and three touchdowns, and he was untouchable throughout the game, getting hit just four times. On this play in the third quarter, Brady has enough time for an entire set of downs:
*phone rings*— 2002 Chris Jericho (@slickvick_23) January 14, 2018
Tom Brady: “Hey what’s up babe? Oh nothing much. Just doing what I do. Make sure you have my avacado ice cream ready when I pull up tonight. Oh nothing. Bout to get another first down. I’ll call you back. Danny is wide open.“ #TENvsNE pic.twitter.com/bOP0mQVBRf
Brady’s taken a lot of hits this season—he was tied for ninth-most in sacks in the regular season, just three behind Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer—and the game plan for opposing teams is to pressure Brady, since that’s the only way to beat the Patriots in the playoffs. The Titans, however, had nothing. Even when Brady had a mild pass rush to deal with, he looked like he was taking a stroll:
Eight: The number of times the Patriots sacked Marcus Mariota. While Brady had enough time in the pocket to de-pit an avocado, Mariota was running for his life and was sacked for a combined 52 yards.
4.4: The Titans’ yards per play, nearly a full yard less than their regular season average of 5.2. That number is also lower than the worst mark any team averaged this season (4.6).
28: Titans running back Derrick Henry’s rushing yards. Just one week after gaining 191 total yards against Kansas City, Henry was held to 49 on 15 touches. Every brave soul who attempted to game plan a path to victory for Tennessee said that the Titans would need to run rampant, including some extra yards on the ground from Mariota. But the Patriots made sure to shred that blueprint and the Titans’ “exotic smashmouth” run game, as Mariota managed just 37 yards rushing.
39 vs. 31: At one point during the fourth quarter, the number of plays Tennessee had run (39) versus the number of New England first downs (31). No stat better encapsulates the annihilation. Garbage time later inflated the Titans’ play count to 61 total plays, but nearly gaining as many first downs as your opponent has total plays by the fourth quarter is about as dominant as it gets.
14,744: The number of days that Tom Brady—the football messiah/devil, depending on your allegiances—has been alive. Brady’s win on Saturday made him the oldest quarterback to ever win a playoff game, passing Brett Favre.
12: The number of AFC Championship games the Patriots have made since the 2001 season. There are many ways to put the Patriots’ unprecedented stretch into perspective—seven Super Bowl appearances, five Super Bowl wins, and 15 division titles in 17 years—but their continuous presence in the AFC championship game each year is as impressive as anything outside of their five rings. The Pats have made the conference title game a dozen times since the 2001 season, while 28 NFL teams haven’t made the playoffs that many times since 2001.
-483,000,000^e: The percent chance of Bill Belichick leaving to coach another team next season.