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Titans vs. Patriots keys to victory: Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry must eat the clock
The Tennessee Titans will be facing Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Saturday. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has been targeted as one of the future stars of the NFL. Autumn Allison|USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee
Three keys to victory for the Titans (10-7) against the Patriots (13-3) in their AFC divisional playoff game Saturday night (7:15 p.m. CT, CBS) at Gillette Stadium:
Eating the clock
Quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Derrick Henry will need to churn out yards on the ground and convert third downs, shortening the game and keeping the powerful New England offense off the field.
Last week, in the Titans’ 18-point comeback against the Chiefs, they dominated time of possession 19:04 to 10:56 and converted all seven third downs, not including a Mariota kneel in victory formation. They’ll want a repeat performance.
The Titans have not fared well defending tight ends this season, and they will have a problem with 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The Titans might try to bracket Gronkowski, perhaps with rangy linebacker Jayon Brown and hard-hitting safety Johnathan Cyprien, though safety Kevin Byard is better in coverage.
Gronk led all NFL tight ends with 1,084 receiving yards, finishing first at his position for the fourth time in his career. He caught eight touchdowns.