Pats vs. Ti­tans: Keys to vic­tory

The Commercial Appeal - - Sports - Erik Bacharach Nashville Ten­nessean USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - TEN­NESSEE

Keys to vic­tory for the Ti­tans (4-4) as they host the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots (7-2) on Sun­day (noon, CBS) at Nis­san Sta­dium.

Mar­cus Mar­i­ota's sup­port­ing cast needs to keep it up

Tight end Jonnu Smith caught two passes, in­clud­ing one for a touch­down, against the Cow­boys. Heck, re­ceiver Cameron Bat­son had two grabs, too. Dar­ius Jen­nings even caught a long ball. And the of­fen­sive line had a solid sec­ond half. Mar­cus Mar­i­ota was fan­tas­tic in lead­ing the Ti­tans to a 28-14 win in Dal­las on “Mon­day Night Foot­ball” (aside from one poor pass to Corey Davis and a fum­ble), and his out­ing was boosted by con­tri­bu­tions from all cor­ners of the ros­ter. He needs that con­sis­tently go­ing for­ward.

Keep forc­ing turnovers

Af­ter two lost fum­bles in the first quar­ter against the Cow­boys, the Ti­tans caused two turnovers of their own – safety Kevin Byard had an in­ter­cep­tion, and Jayon Brown forced a fum­ble that fel­low line­backer Wes­ley Wood­yard re­cov­ered – that helped Ten­nessee seize the mo­men­tum. The Ti­tans prob­a­bly will need a cou­ple of such plays Sun­day against Tom Brady and the Pa­tri­ots' pro­lific of­fense.

No ex­plo­sive plays for Josh Gor­don

Wide re­ceiver Josh Gor­don, whom the Pa­tri­ots traded a fifth-round pick for in Septem­ber, is begin­ning to re­ally find a rhythm in his new of­fense.

In the Pa­tri­ots' past five games, he has five catches of at least 20 yards, in­clud­ing two that went for 55 yards and two that ended with Gor­don in the end zone. Those types of ex­plo­sive passes have been the weak­ness of this Ti­tans de­fense. The se­condary will have to make sure Gor­don doesn’t slip be­hind it.

Reach Erik Bacharach at ebacharach@ten­nessean.com and on Twit­ter @ErikBacharach.

MATTHEW EMMONS-USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Ti­tans tight end Jonnu Smith (81) cel­e­brates his third-quar­ter touch­down Mon­day.

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