NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Duron Harmon had seen this all before.
As the Tennessee Titans battered the New England Patriots in all three phases Sunday afternoon, rolling to a 34-10 victory at Nissan Stadium, Harmon was reminded of those two early-season blowouts his team had endured — humbling road losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions in Weeks 2 and 3.
“All our losses have looked like this,” the Patriots safety said. “Kind of one-sided. We’ve just got to fix that because it’s not the time to be losing games.”
Indeed. And the timing of this latest loss was far conventional.
Patriots fans are used to seeing their team lay an egg each September. That seems to happen on a yearly basis. And they’re accustomed to witnessing the occasional narrow loss late in the year (see: at Miami in 2017, vs. Seattle in 2016, etc.).
But a thorough mid-November dismantling? That’s almost unheard of around these parts. Not since 2010 had a Tom Brady-led Patriots team lost by double digits in October, November or December.
“Anytime you lose like that,” wide receiver Julian Edelman said, “it’s always concerning.”
Edelman was one of the few Patriots standouts Sunday, finishing with nine catches on 12 targets for 104 yards against the Mike Vrabel-led Titans. The offense as a whole struggled, with Brady completing a season-low 51.2 percent of his passes and a patchwork offensive line surrendering three sacks as Tennessee consistently brought pressure up the middle.
The Patriots, who were without tight end Rob Gronkowski (ankle/back) and right guard Shaq Mason (calf) for the second consecutive week, went 3-for-15 on third down and entered Tennessee’s red zone just once. Their lone touchdown was scored by their fullback, James Develin, on his first carry since 2014.
“Winning football takes a lot of good performances from a lot of people,” said Brady, who was replaced by backup Brian Hoyer with more than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. “And losing football is the exact opposite of that. … We just played a bad game. You see what happens. Hopefully, there’s more urgency as we go forward.”
New England’s defense, meanwhile, allowed 34 points to the NFL’s 29th-ranked scoring offense. Wide receiver Corey Davis torched New England’s lockdown cover man, Stephon Gilmore, to finish with seven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown, and Tennessee’s Dion Lewis-and-Derrick Henry-led backfield racked up 150 yards and two scores on the ground.
“You’d better learn from a game like this,” Edelman said, “because the weeks get harder and harder. (The Titans are) a good football team — well-coached, good players. You to tip your hat to them. But we’ve got to go out, and we’ve got to watch this film, and we’ve got to fix it, because this is when you start separating or you start falling behind.”
That the loss comes before the Patriots’ bye week is even more surprising. New England had won its last nine games prior to the bye, winning those games by an average of 22 points.
The Patriots — which had won six straight before the nightmare in Nashville — now sit at 7-3 entering the idle week, staring up at the 9-1 Kansas City Chiefs, 7-2 Los Angeles Chargers and 6-2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC standings with six games to go.
After the bye, the Patriots will visit the 3-7 New York Jets before kicking off the most difficult stretch of their remaining schedule: home vs. the Minnesota Vikings in Week 13, at the Dolphins in Week 14 and at the Steelers in Week 15.
One more loss would make it nearly impossible for the Patriots to secure home-field advantage and, depending on how the Chargers and Steelers fare, even could cost them a first-round playoff bye, which would force them to play on wild-card weekend for the first time since 2009.
“We’ve still got a ways to go,” Harmon said. “Six games left. I wouldn’t say it’s in a panic mode, but you never want to play like this.”
Thumbnail photo via Jim Brown/USA TODAY Sports Images
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