Patriots head back to the AFC ti­tle game

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Sports - By Kyle Hightower The As­so­ci­ated Press

FOXBOR­OUGH, MASS. » Tom Brady passed for three touch­downs and 337 yards, and the New Eng­land Patriots cruised past the Ten­nessee Ti­tans, 35-14, on Jan. 13 to ad­vance to their seventh con­sec­u­tive AFC cham­pi­onship game.

New Eng­land (14-3) will host the win­ner of the Jan. 14 divi­sional matchup be­tween Jack­sonville and Pitts­burgh.

It was Brady’s 10th ca­reer post­sea­son game with at least three TD tosses, mov­ing him past Joe Mon­tana for the most in NFL his­tory.

James White caught a touch­down pass and ran for another, and Danny Amen­dola had 11 catches for 112 yards.

The Ti­tans (10-8) took an early 7-0 lead, but New Eng­land scored 35 straight points to take con­trol.

Mar­cus Mar­i­ota com­pleted 22 of 37 passes for 254 yards and two touch­downs, but was un­der duress for most of the sec­ond half. He was sacked eight times, a Patriots play­off record. New Eng­land also held Der­rick Henry to just 28 yards rush­ing on 12 car­ries.

New Eng­land’s vic­tory came on the heels of a week filled with drama fol­low­ing re­ports of tur­moil in­volv­ing Brady, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft.

None of that showed on the field Jan. 13.

“It def­i­nitely sounds crazy. But you have to keep ig­nor­ing the noise on the out­side, just keep work­ing ev­ery time you walk into the build­ing and just keep grind­ing,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said of how his team han­dled the me­dia firestorm this week.

The Ti­tans came back

from an 18-point deficit in the sec­ond half to beat the Chiefs 22-21 in the wild­card round last week — the largest come­back on the road in the Su­per Bowl era. But the Patriots didn’t give them a chance for an en­core.

Lead­ing 14-7, the Patriots stretched their lead to 14 just be­fore half­time thanks to a trio of care­less penal­ties on the Ti­tans.

Ten­nessee ini­tially forced a three-and-out, but gave up a first down via a fourth-and-5 neu­tral zone

in­frac­tion on Bryn­den Traw­ick be­fore New Eng­land’s punt at­tempt.

Armed with a new set of downs, Brady went to work mov­ing the Patriots down the field with a steady diet of short passes. The Ti­tans helped along the way with il­le­gal con­tact and un­nec­es­sary rough­ness penal­ties. It even­tu­ally cul­mi­nated in a 4-yard TD pass from Brady to Chris Ho­gan in the back of the end zone that made it 21-7.

Brady threw a short shovel pass to White, who

ran it in from the 5-yard line to make it 7-7 early in the sec­ond quar­ter.

The Patriots ap­peared to have a touch­down three plays ear­lier, when Dion Lewis caught a pass from Brady and was tack­led by Wes­ley Wood­yard at the 19. Lewis landed on top of the de­fender, then got up and con­tin­ued to the end zone.

The of­fi­cials ini­tially ruled that he had never been down and called it a touch­down. But re­plays showed Lewis’ butt hit the ground at the 19.

Corey Davis made a one­handed catch on a 15-yard pass from Mar­i­ota in the corner of the end zone to give the Ti­tans a 7-0 lead. Mar­i­ota had a pair of 11yard runs to help set up the score.

Davis added an 11-yard TD re­cep­tion with 1:55 left in the game — and the Ti­tans’ sea­son.

In­juries

Patriots: Right tackle LaA­drian Wad­dle left the with a knee in­jury early in the third quar­ter . ... Cor­ner­back Jonathan Jones was helped off the field late in the fourth quar­ter.

CHARLES KRUPA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Patriots run­ning back James White, right, runs past Ti­tans safety Kevin Byard for a TD dur­ing the first half.

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